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Another CA Estate Question/Is there reason to Contest now?

Discussion in 'Estate Administration & Probate Court' started by LostinTranslation, Oct 19, 2022.

  1. LostinTranslation

    LostinTranslation Law Topic Starter New Member

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    My apologies for any mistakes in advance and any non-factual editoral material put in & spelling mistakes. This is new for me airing anyone's problems in a public forum.
    It's probably the third oldest story around of a 2nd marriage disinheriting the original child/relatives plus a few twists. I've heard of plenty worse, or as bad. Few that work out well for the original children, ever. I've seen/heard of similar situations from the original children all across the financial spectrum. This is a long read. I apologize for that as well. Thank you for any helpful comments or criticism.

    History: Original Parents had a male Son {hereafter referred to as "Original Son" mostly to differentiate). Only child. Both parents worked & became successful in their chosen fields until retirement or @ time of Death.
    Allegedly & Originally both parents were Joint Tenants in a paid off property @ time of Death. Both Original Parents allegedly had mutually agreed upon Wills, leaving the property to each other, and/or to their Son once he reached his majority in its' entirety. Allegedly there were 3 minor bequests to 2 named relatives & 1 direct bequest to their Son @ the time of either of their passing. Plus a verbally attested to Codicil before the Mother/1st Wife's death.

    The 1st Wife/Mother Passed away due to a terminal illness and pre-deceased the Husband after 35+ years of marriage & after the Son turned 19yo in the State of CA. 1st Marriage was 35+ years minimum. 1st Wife/Mother died only with a Will with the alleged Codicil for her Son.

    Within 3 months after 1st Wife's Death, Husband simply filed "Death of Joint Tenant" on the house which is the main holding as in most cases.

    Surviving Father/Husband met his 2nd Wife less than six months after the passing of his 1st Wife and remarried approximately 7-10 months later. Son was away at University except during the Summers @ this time. 2nd Wife moved into Father's House after their "Honeymoon". 2nd Wife had 3, older children. All older than the Original Son @ the time of their Wedding, from a prior marriage that ended in Divorce and Sale or disbursement of all Communal assets.

    At the time of Surviving Husband/Father's 2nd marriage. 2nd wife signed a "QuitClaim" to any & all property at/or around the time of the 2nd Marriage/Wedding at the insistence of both Survivng/Husband/Original Father & Son. Interestingly 2nd Wife did not ask for same. Basically as she was in allegedly quite heavy debt which allegedly led to various pre-2nd marriage "demands & monetary requirements" (proven and found out @ a later date by new Husband & Original Son).

    Original Son allegedly being much closer to his Mother than his Father insisted on the QuitClaim given his Father's then proven "character weaknesses" & alleged "Inability to stand up for himself", before marriage to 2nd Wife. Father also believed this to be prudent action.

    Father without telling his Son (I know that's perfectly legal), along with 2nd Wife, initially had written a Revocable Trust approximately one year after their marriage which became Irrevocable @ the Passing of either Party. Father/Husband & 2nd Wife immediately changed Law Firms when they formed the Original Trust Document to the Law Firm which 2nd Wife had worked at (not an attorney) for 15 plus years and had a longstanding relationship (not an Estate Law Firm). Eventually this new Trust was changed between 4-11x until year 2000. All changes greatly benefiting the 2nd Wife and her Progeny (3 adult Children all multiple years older than the Original Son) from her first Marriage (Divorced) and eventually writing out the Husband's recognized Only Child/Original Son, except for what seems to be the standard minimal amount in CA (obvious and old ploy so that the party won't sue and can't claim Disinheritance). Original Son was obviously unaware of any changes.

    Father/Husband & Original Son became distant due to 2nd Wife and her alleged demands. Old story. Push the original kids out. Protect or enhance your own.

    Husband pre-Deceased his 2nd Wife in the early 2000's @ which time Original Son was served with notice of his Death 45 days after his passing by the, new to him, attorneys @ his residence in a different County in CA. Previously, the Father had allegedly made numerous and varied verbal and written promises to his Son, which were never kept, even during his lifetime. The new Trust of course held the proverbial "poison pill clause" that disinherits any party that challenges or brings suit v. the Estate.

    Original Son from 1st Marriage did NOT challenge the Estate Trust @ that time, which also left in excess of $1.8 million (minus any & all monies that were left by the Mother/1st Wife to her Son as she left in excess of $300k in Life Insurance alone. Original Son had knowledge of all family finances due to doing the family Property, Insurance Estimations & Valuations for several years)
    Everything except an "Exemption Trust" payouts went to the 2nd Wife as Executor. 2nd Wife was left all Personal Effects by her now deceased 20 year older Husband.
    The Trust that pertains to all progeny & inheritors then became an "Exemption Trust" and named all Inheritors minus the Executor 2nd Wife, within the "Exemption Trust". Total Estate value including Real Property @ that time (for the curious) was approximately $4.8-$7 Million Dollars.

    Original Son had minor children who were named in the Exemption Trust & @ the time of his Father's passing, as minors @ that time, would have been excluded from the Exemption Trust IF the Original Son from the 1st marriage had contested or brought Suit at that time (poison pill clause). Son's Children are now legally adults and stand to inherit over $1xxK each minimum, or a half share each in the Exemption Trust. 2nd Wife's Children will each receive a full share, or at least double the amount.

    Original Son recently received (faulty?, see below) notice that the 2nd wife is selling the main property and her Executor has filed a Motion to Distribute the Exemption Trust "early" due to incurring a large RE sales tax $ penalty she is attempting to avoid. Original Son is within the Time limits of the notice to file a Challenge or bring Suit. Property sale & remaining Estate are approximately $3 million.

    Possibly Pertinent Information:

    1. All Real Property from the 1st Marriage was paid off by Husband and 1st Wife, including the main residence/property. 1st Wife in fact at all times made a larger salary and monies than the Husband.
    2. Father/Husband, dispensed various items to the Original Son in excess of $20,000 current value that belonged to his Mother/1st Wife & had sentimental value specifically to him, or that he planned to leave to his children after the death of his Mother. These items were communal property and disbursed during the 2nd marriage at Original Son's request.
    3. While in Hospital, 1st Wife/Mother verbally told Original Son approximately a week before her passing, that she had left him the amount of $70k exactly as a Codicil in her Written Will. When asked "why?". Mother verbally acknowledged that her Son had given up a "year of his life " to stay home and help take care of her and she appreciated the gesture and that now she "wanted him to have some fun" before or while continuing his education. Mother died suddenly while in Hospital for routine treatment during a long illness.
    4. Original Wife/Mother's Written Will at NO time was ever probated, presented as evidence of her wishes & Husband/Father used this incorrectly and illegally as a weapon v. his Son, refusing at all times to allow the Son to view it at any time or even a copy of it. Original Son for over a decade asked to simply view the Will, or any proof that it existed. Husband/Father refused at all times (written evidence to this on several occasions as well as witnesses still alive that can attest to this fact). Son simply wanted to view his Mother's last Will & Testament, as any loving son would hopefully wish.

    Son knew from both his Father and his Mother that originally @ the time of either Parent's passing, there were specific instructions and that He was named in the Will with specific instructions in the event that both parents passed prior to his reaching his majority. There was also a Gift provision written into both of the Husband & His Mother's Wills for 2 close relatives. As the Will, nor any Will was ever Probated, the 2 relatives each lost their cash gift within the 5 figure range.

    6. The amount of money that the Original Son will receive from the "Exemption Trust". being basically the minimum in CA, is a negligible amount now to the Original Son and he has the wherewithal to sustain any inheritance or other legal battle for however long He wishes due to monies that he has made in his chosen field, which involved continued education his Father or Mother (deceased) had nothing to do with nor funded. His children's share of the Exemption Trust cannot be attacked now that they are Adults. Original Son has already set up and funded Trusts for his own children that are far greater than what his Father left them. Son does not wish either of his children to believe that their "Grandfather" did not care about them, even as adults and even if true. "Grandfather" in fact did not even bother to meet one of his "grandchildren" (I'm editorializing I know).

    7. Father of Original Son's memory and mental faculties, as well as physical being became questionable almost immediately after his Mother/1st Wife's passing. Father would routinely call his Son by his own Brother's name, began noticeably mixing up 1st & 2nd wive's names. Mix up Dates and events, even recent events. Physical symptoms included recurring incontinence and heart problems immediately after the 1st Wife's passing. The Father's infirmity became a taboo subject between Father & Son with the Father often flying into weeks-months long fits of rage if even his memory was questioned.

    Quasi-Legal Questions:

    1. Given that there is no record of any existence now, and that the Son has documentary and legal proof that his Father @ all times refused to show him his Mother's Will and/or Probate it, or even prove to him any record of the existence of such. Is it legally possible for the Son to file a claim v. the Estate in that his Mother actually died "In Testate" and thus giving him a 25%, or larger portion of the sale of the House and/or claim to other real property. Son also wishes to attempt to reclaim some of the Community Property which @ time of his Mother's passing was agreed & identified as "communal property" bought during the first marriage and which has specific sentimental value to him only. This includes artwork, instruments, jewelry and other household belongings which he did not "claim" or receive during his Father's lifetime, and non-legally had absolutely nothing to do with the 2nd Wife. The Husband/Father allegedly & interestingly verbally made it extremely aware to his Original Son that he NEVER wanted the House to be sold on any grounds. Allegedly, It was his Mother's stated wish for the Original Son to "raise his children in that house" and prior to the Mother's long illness and eventual passing, she was eagerly looking forward to the prospect of "grandchildren".

    2. At this late stage, is it legal possibility to claim "Undue Influence". Given the circumstances as well as the many changes, all in favor of the 2nd Wife, and after a year the immediate use of her former employers to write up every subsequent draft of the new Trust (They are not an Estate law firm btw) and each change was paid for by the Husband. There were also certain monetary "requirements" that the 2nd Wife demanded both prior to their Wedding which the Original Son was made aware of @ that time, and of which there are obviously bank & other legal records that still exist, as well as specific monetary demands after marriage to 2nd Wife, as well as failure on her part to repay certain amounts, again which are provable.

    3. Original Son does not believe that the now different & current attorneys representing the Estate have served him correctly as said attorneys recently originally served on him via a private, blind email address as well as their mailing was to a 3-4 year old previous address in a different county where he legally never resided. Any decent public records search could prove that. Allegedly it appears to be a "lack of care" or specific lack of concern by said attorneys.

    Son did previously receive some mail there inaccurately in the past, however nothing was forwarded to him, & he resided at that address sporadically for a period of 3-4 months during the beginning of Covid, but never full time & he had no phone # or other information linking him to that address.

    The Original Son has always maintained multiple publicly available mailing & residence addresses and has lived in the same County legally and officially for over 30 years ever since he was asked to leave the main residence 3 months after graduation from Undergraduate by the 2nd Wife through his Father. This is provable. Original Son, after he received the Exemption Trust email at a private & personal email address that has no ties to him and which he does not check on a regular basis, informed the current Estate Attorneys of a correct mailing address which accepts Service, and Original Son asked for the Complete Original Trust Document as well as any and all Supporting Documents. The original or copy of his Mother's Will and his own Birth Certificate or Equivalent that his Father kept in his Private Papers and which should have been preserved as part of the Estate. Attorney's failed to provide anything but the portion of the last Amended Trust and Exemption Trust and did not include even a hard copy of their filed Motion and attached Documents they sent him attached to their original Email. They had no knowledge of any of the other papers. The Original Son has contacted the original Trust Attorneys and they don't have any of the stated records, or any documents supporting the Father's claim that there even was a Will, or the name of the Law Firm that would have Written or Executed said document.

    Q. Is there a basis or grounds for any Civil legal action v. the Estate based on an "In Testate" claim, Undue Influence claim, or any other claim with a reasonable chance of success at this late date? Again, Original Son is perfectly willing to pay new attorneys fees, has retained the same business legal counsel on a permanent basis for several years etc. Original Son allegedly has the means to bring an action v. the Estate and the 2nd Wife and pay to sustain it for as long as necessary. I do not believe this is enmity. He has an oversized sense of what he purports to be "Justice" that could be construed as arrogance, & at most allegedly would be happy to simply recoup attorney costs & fees from any action brought v. the Estate, as the amount left to him to keep him from suing is now negligible to him. However, his only concern is he doesn't want anything to hurt his now adult children. He is happy that they are receiving anything from the Estate. While it is not "life changing money". It will help both of them move forward with their lives. A large portion of the money he has earmarked for them allegedly has been offered once and refused as both children allegedly have an extremely strong work ethic and both are adults, so he has formed Trusts which they won't receive until his own passing which may be longer than a decade and his adult children would apparently be well past middle age.

  2. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Way too long. I didn't read any of it.

    If you can't summarize your issues in a few short paragraphs, it's probably complicated enough that you should hire an attorney.
  3. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    You'd need to see a CA probate attorney (assuming that this all occurred in that state) for a definitive answer. It would be important to read all the available pertinent documents and exactly what was done and when to see if the Original Son (OS) has any claim to make now. But just from what you've said here, I think it very unlikely. His mother predeceased his father, and his father died about 20 years ago. Thus, barring something like fraud, perhaps, it is likely the time for him to contest the outcome of either his mother or father's estate has long since passed. He sat on this for many years, and that fault, absent something you've left out, is on him.

    He likely has no standing to contest the step-mother's will or her trust. He's not one who would take from her estate under intestate succession, so that challenge would likely get him nothing. In terrorem clauses (which disinherit those who challenge the will or trust) in wills and trusts are generally disfavored in many states. In my state, for example, those clauses are not enforced as long as the person bringing suit has at least enough to survive a frivolous lawsuit challenge. I don't know how California deals with that, but I'd not be surprised if it's something similar. But he'd want to consult an attorney first before potentially shooting himself in the foot and losing whatever he is otherwise due to get.

    Also, if the claim brought is frivolous then he could sanctioned by the court along with losing out on the property he was trying to seek.

    Given the money involved here, it's worth paying a CA attorney some money to go over this and see if there is something he can do. I just suggest he not go into it with real high hopes.
  4. justblue

    justblue Well-Known Member

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    Who are you in this situation?
  5. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    I agree that this was WAY too long. From what I did read, it sounds like the son is a real piece of work.
  6. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    I looked at that lengthy missive and immediately thought: @LostinTranslation

    If your legal issue is THAT complex, you disservice yourself by not seeking legal guidance and counsel from a licensed attorney in the state where you reside.
    Zigner likes this.

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