When is a grandchild not a grandchild? That’s not a riddle. It’s a question that came up in a recent dispute over an inheritance.
Back in 1980, multi-billionaire Peter Bing set up a Trust to benefit his future grandchildren. Now, the trustee for the estate wants to disinherit two of them because they were born out of wedlock — Damian Hurley, son of businessman Steve Bing and actress Liz Hurley, and Kira Kerkorian Bing, daughter of Steve and tennis player Lisa Bonder.
In a court proceeding, the trustee filed an affidavit saying Peter Bing’s intent when he created the Trust was to exclude grandchildren born out of wedlock from inheriting unless they lived with their parents for a substantial amount of time. The Trustee stated that neither Damien nor Kira grew up with their father, Steve, and that Steve had never even met Damien and didn’t meet Kira until she was an adult. Therefore, Peter didn’t consider Damien and Kira to be beneficiaries of his Trust.
The judge didn’t buy it. He ruled that the term “grandchild,” as used in the Trust, was not ambiguous. The judge reasoned that while a Trust should be interpreted according to the testator’s intent, that intent had to be found in the words of the trust document itself, not in some “undisclosed purpose or intent that may have existed in the mind of the testator.” The trustee’s interpretation of “grandchild,” the judge held, was unreasonable, and Damien and Kira should inherit.
This situation shows how important it is to make your intent clear in your estate documents to ensure your wishes will be carried out. Getting the help of an experienced and dedicated estate attorney is essential for anticipating and preventing problems in the future. Contact The Estate Planning and Legacy Law Center for comprehensive estate planning services.