Can I give everything to the “love of my life” and keep it secret?
NO DISCLOSURE TO OMITTED HEIRS?
Up until 1997 a person could legally change his or her estate plan and the people previously benefited did not have any legal way to find out what the situation was. Before the law was changed to require disclosure as it is now, the state legislature committee reviewing the proposed legislation was presented with a case of a 90-year-old man who met the “love of his life” on a bar stool and married her three months later.
He then changed his entire estate plan to disinherit his three children and six grandchildren and to leave everything to his new wife. At that time, the persons administering the 90-year-old man’s estate could legally refuse to tell his children and grandchildren what happened to his estate and could legally refuse to provide any of the documentation. The family was left in this type of situation with no alternative but to pursue expensive and timely court litigation.
THE LAW NOW REQUIRES DISCLOSURES
Where there is a living trust which becomes permanent on death and no probate court proceeding, there is no access to the trust document or its terms unless the successor trustee provides it. In a typical living trust situation, the person who established the living trust is the trustee of his or her own trust. The trust document provides for somebody else to be a successor trustee when the person establishing the trust either resigns or becomes deceased and no longer able to be the trustee. Upon the death of the person establishing a trust, the trust typically becomes permanent and irrevocable. The California probate code now provides that the trustee has a duty to provide a true and complete copy of a revocable trust after it has become a revocable to not only the beneficiaries named in the trust but also to any heir of a deceased person who requests a copy of the trust. The beneficiaries are the people named in the trust who are to receive benefits from the trust. Persons who are legal heirs have no legal right to receive benefits from the trust unless they are actually named as beneficiary of the trust. The term “heir” basically refers to a person who would be entitled to inherit from a deceased person if there were no will or no trust establishing who is to be paid the estate of the deceased person.