One common reason for creating or amending an existing estate plan later in life is to reflect on changed family dynamics. Second or subsequent marriages often require careful thought and planning to ensure that the estate will pass as intended, protecting the surviving spouse and/or descendants from a first marriage.
In the case of a California man who died in 2016 before he could sign an updated Trust document to do just that, the court has effectively created a Trust to honor his wishes and protect his second wife’s interests. The details of the case are relatively straightforward.
Frank Gomez married an old flame in 2015, three years after the death of his first wife. He amended his estate plan in 2015 to give his second wife Louise, a life estate in the home they shared, effectively allowing her to live there for the rest of her life. At least one of his four children told her father she disagreed with this decision.
In 2016, an attorney met with Frank at the nursing home where he was receiving care and documented Frank’s wish that his entire estate pass to Louise and then to his children at Louise’s death. The attorney drafted a new Trust document and went to Frank’s home to meet with him. Unfortunately, two of Frank’s children prevented the attorney or his paralegal from entering the home. Frank died two days later.
Louise filed a lawsuit against the two children on the grounds that they intentionally interfered with the expected inheritance. The court found that the attorney’s testimony was credible and unbiased, so it created a constructive Trust for Louise. The children appealed this ruling, but an appellate court upheld it.
This case underscores the importance of making sure your estate plan is current and reflects your wishes – especially if there are complicated family dynamics at play. To schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer, contact The Estate Planning & Legacy Law Center today!