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Irvine Legal Blog

Challenging wills can get complicated

Challenging a will can be a daunting task, but California residents that believe they have a valid claim may be able to successfully contest a will. Nationwide, 99 percent of all wills pass through probate without problems arising. Probate courts generally stick pretty closely to what the will says since it represents the last wishes of the deceased person.

When a will is contested, the most successful challenges are from spouses that claim that the deceased person lacked the testamentary capability to execute a will while he or she was living or was strongly influenced to write the will a certain way. Successful will challenges can void a will either partially or totally. If the will is totally voided, the court will distribute the property as if the will never existed.

New administrator recommends suit by Prince estate

Californians who are fans of Prince might be interested in learning about the latest twist in the administration of his estate. Recently, the new special administrator who was appointed by the court to oversee the estate submitted findings that Prince's estate should seek the recoupment of legal fees and costs that the estate paid to its former attorneys in a failed $31 million deal with Universal Music Group.

According to news sources, the attorneys negotiated a contract with UMG that would have granted it rights to a package of music, including the previously unreleased music that is contained in Prince's "vault." After the contract was negotiated, UMG decided to back out because of concerns it had about the rights that were granted to Warner Music Group in 2014.

Grounds for contesting a will

When contesting a will, you must have valid grounds. Challenging a will can be problematic because the testator, the author of the will, cannot defend or rationalize their wishes. The court system tends to stick to the testator’s wishes as outlined in the will unless the challenger can prove valid grounds for the will to be contested.


Financial adviser benefits from $1.6 million estate

When a loved one passes away in California, sometimes the will may carry with it some bitter surprises. This is the case for relatives of one retired factory worker, a lifelong loner who lived by himself and died of advanced dementia at the age of 92. After a funeral service which family members were excluded from, they learned that his entire estate, as well as his power of attorney for medical issues and his annuities, were given to a financial adviser that he met 10 years prior to his death.

At the time of his death, the annuities were worth more than $1 million and his entire estate was greater than $1.6 million. The retired worker was cremated and buried at a private funeral arranged by the financial adviser. After the revelations, 12 of the worker's nieces and nephews filed a lawsuit to contest the will, alleging that the financial adviser manipulated the deceased man into making her the sole beneficiary, as he was already suffering from dementia when the will was written.

Family sues to block grandson's inheritance

In California and around the country, inheritance disputes sometimes arise after people die. Family members may file lawsuits to prevent people from inheriting from estates if they believe that the people caused the deaths. In a case that was filed in New Hampshire, a man's aunts are suing to try to prevent him from inheriting money from his grandfather's estate because his aunts believe that he killed his grandfather and his mother so that he could inherit the money.

According to news reports, an 87-year-old real estate developer was murdered in 2013 with an assault rifle. No one has ever been arrested or charged in the case. The man left behind $29 million that was to be divided among his four daughters, including the younger man's mother.

How to do probate right in California

After a person dies in California, it may be necessary for the will to go through probate. If that is the case, the custodian of the will has 30 days from a person's passing to present an original copy to the probate court clerk's office. The executor of the estate should also receive a copy.

A petition to start the probate process must be made in the county where the deceased person died. Alternatively, it may be filed in the county where a person owned property in California. If there is no will available, an administrator will be appointed to oversee an estate during the probate process. In most cases, it may be appropriate to ask an attorney for help starting a probate case. The petitioner is not allowed to mail the notice out to potentially interested parties; this must be done by any other adult.

Understanding inheritance theft

As much as we'd like to think that our heirs and survivors will come together in grief after we're gone, that isn't always the case. Family in-fighting, resentment, anger, greed, and old "scores to settle" often rear their ugly heads in the aftermath - or just before - a loved one's death.

Sometimes squabbles are verbal or physical in nature. Simmering emotions can boil over at a memorial service or when an estate attorney gathers heirs to read the will. This could lead to shouting matches or even fist fights.

Family disputes can lead to estate litigation

Family fighting during the estate process is nothing new in California and other parts of the country. One such family squabble is ongoing in Baltimore, Maryland, over the estate of a successful businessman.

As is often the case, the dispute involves the decedent's children and his second spouse over the size of his estate. The man died at the age of 87 after developing a sizable chain of bakeries believed to be one of the largest private bakeries in the country. When his estate was inventoried for the Maryland Orphans' Court, however, it showed only $155,000 in net assets.

Two men claim sole rights to Charles Manson's estate

News sources report that an inheritance dispute has arisen over control of the estate of cult leader Charles Manson, who died in a California prison on Nov. 19. Manson was initially sentenced to death after his followers killed several people in 1969. In 1972, he received a life sentence after the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty. Now, two men are each claiming to hold wills naming them as the sole beneficiary of Manson's estate.

According to one entertainment news outlet, Manson had disinherited his children, ex-wives, and friends, as well as the State of California and various law enforcement officials, prior to his demise at the age of 83. Sources say that Manson's pen pal is in possession of a handwritten and typed will dated Feb. 14, 2002, that gives him the cult leader's money, clothing, image rights, music catalog and all other possessions.

When can landlords enter their rental properties?

As a general rule, a California landlord has the right to enter a rental property. However, there may be criteria that must be met before the landlord actually enters a given home or apartment. For instance, the reason for entry must be related to maintaining the unit or otherwise ensuring that it meets health and safety standards. Landlords may also enter if given the ability to do so by a court.

Entry must occur during an hour deemed to be reasonable. As a guideline, a landlord should plan to visit a home or apartment between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. In some cases, it may be possible to enter a premises earlier in the morning or later at night if a tenant agrees. However, landlords may generally enter a premises at any time if it is an emergency situation such as a flood or a fire.

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