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  • Writer's pictureAdam Eberts

You don’t get everything just because you are the favorite

Often, parents and grandparents express their favoritism through their estate plan. Favored children and grandchildren get more. Sometimes, they get it all. But, what happens when the favorite—and we are talking about a favorite who has been in line to get everything for decades—starts playing dirty in order to make sure she gets everything? Well, in California, up until very recently… nothing. That’s right. In Probate Court, documents get invalidated, written out of whole cloth. So, even if you invalidate a recent document, odds are good that a favorite, who has remained the favorite for decades, is still going to be in first position in the prior documents. Go back far enough, and you are likely to find a document in which the favorite was still the favorite without any shenanigans. And, you’re stuck.

Think of probate litigation like a race. Usually, the scenario is the second place runner tripping the first place runner. And, the remedy is easy: rewind the race to the moment before the trip and call it. If first place whips out a machete and mows down all comers, well, that’s unfortunate. But, as we keep rewinding the tape, first place was always first place and, at some point, it was legitimate. So, the others have no remedy at probate.

In 2012, Beckwith v Dahl brought the tort of Intentional Interference with Expected Inheritance to California. I will spare you all of the legal elements, policy arguments, and academic nuance, and cut to the chase. The Sonoma County trust litigation attorneys at Eberts and Brockway have already put Beckwith v Dahl to work for our clients. In one particular case, the favorite granddaughter, although she stood to inherit millions, interfered with her grandfather’s stated desire to leave a couple hundred thousand to her siblings. By the time we were finished, even after paying our bill, our clients walked away with considerably more than they would have had the favorite sister just left well enough alone.

Before you select a trust litigation attorney, make sure that they are knowledgeable enough to know all the latest law, creative enough to use it, and brave enough to see it through.

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