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Irvine Legal Blog

Executors must work for the estate, not themselves

After a loved one in California passes away, loved ones and will beneficiaries may wonder about the powers of the estate's executor. Named in the will and confirmed in probate court, the executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes of the person who wrote the will as well as addressing debts, taxes and other estate issues. As part of his or her tasks, the executor has the right and indeed the responsibility to protect and potentially expand the assets of the estate. Therefore, the executor can use the estate's funds to defend lawsuits against it such as those filed by potential beneficiaries not named in the will seeking a stake in the distribution of the assets.

In addition, an estate executor can take legal action on behalf of the estate in an attempt to increase the estate's funds. In some cases, this could include pursuing claims against people accused of taking assets from the estate without authorization. It could also include pursuing other types of lawsuits that could benefit the estate, including intellectual property or wrongful death claims.

Judge appoints new trustee for Hawaiian estate

First Hawaiian Bank is now the new trustee of Abigail Kawananakoa’s estate. A Hawaiian judge found the 92-year-old sugar cane heiress incapable of overseeing the $220 million trust.

The judge – along with Los Angeles psychiatrist, David Trader – agreed that Kawananakoa lacked the mental capacity to make financial decisions, such as changes to the trust. Last year, Kawananakoa suffered a stroke and parties are focusing on her wellbeing. Her attorneys are disappointed that she cannot choose her own trustees.

Disputes, efforts to locate artwork in artist's estate

California fans of the late artist Robert Indiana may be aware that a lawsuit has been filed by the Morgan Art Foundation against the artist's caretaker and art dealer. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant kept the artist isolated from friends and professional colleagues and created fake paintings he then sold for millions.

The personal representative for the estate called a hearing that occurred on Sept. 12. The estate is valued at $60 million, but he is trying to determine whether there are additional assets. Afterward, the personal representative commented that he had identified more than 60 additional pieces of art and more than 100 pieces that the caretaker said were given to him as gifts. Furthermore, there were additional leads regarding other works of art at galleries throughout the world.

Land dispute resurfaces in Colorado courts

One land dispute in Colorado is going back to court 16 years following a major decision that gave hundreds of residents of Costilla County the right to access a mountain property. In past years, the ancestors of these residents had owned and used the property in common. Now, the issues around this land are headed back to court. The descendants of early Hispanic settlers in the San Luis Valley are sparring with a Texas oil heir who purchased the Cielo Vista Ranch. The ranch includes 83,000 acres of backcountry land encompassing 19 mountains above 13,000 feet in height each.

At one September hearing before the Colorado Court of Appeals, attorneys representing the fourth owner of the ranch since 2004 attempted to argue that the justices should overturn the previous decision granting the heirs of early settlers land access to one mountain for use in gathering timber and grazing livestock. Representatives of the Land Rights Council, which represents the local residents, said that they expected the ongoing appeals from the ranch's owners. Over the past 20 years, the property's owners have repeatedly battled with local residents.

Glen Campbell's children and widow in dispute over estate

California fans of singer Glen Campbell may have heard that there has been a dispute over his estate. Campbell died in August 2017. In his estate plan, three of his children were disinherited. He left the estate to his wife and five of his other children.

The three disinherited children and his wife cannot agree on a trial date. She wants the trial to be held in April 2019 while they want it to be at the end of that year. There is also a dispute over whether Stanley Schneider, Campbell's business manager, is required to reply to a subpoena. Attorneys for him and for Campbell's wife say that deadlines, including the trial date, must be set before the subpoena is valid.

Aretha Franklin's family could battle over her estate

California fans of Aretha Franklin may be interested in information that emerged just after the singer's death on August 16. The "Queen of Soul," as she was known to millions, died after a long battle with cancer surrounded by family, but reportedly some members of that family began a battle over her estate just after she passed on.

According to reports, Franklin was set to marry her longtime partner, a Detroit firefighter, in 2012, but her four sons feared that her beau was out to steal their inheritance. Franklin broke the engagement and the two never married, but they continued their relationship and lived together until her death.

Aretha Franklin died without a will: What happens to her estate?

The Queen of Soul died on August 16, 2018. After making money utilizing her incredible vocals, Franklin’s estate has millions to disperse to her beneficiaries in the next few months. That is, if she had a will.

Franklin failed to create a last will and testament before her passing. Though the court works to alleviate the stress of money issues among her loved ones, the process of delegating millions to her children may prove exhausting and timely. Dying without a will, referred to as intestate, carries laws regarding successors that vary throughout the United States, but some laws cross all state borders. If your loved one dies without a will, you may want to contact an experienced attorney to aid you in obtaining your rightful inheritance.

Legal counsel may help trustees carry out their duties

Often, a California resident will choose a friend or family member to oversee an irrevocable trust. This is because a friend or family member is generally someone who the grantor of the trust can rely on. However, a trustee will have a fiduciary responsibility to many parties after taking on such a role, especially after the grantor has died. For instance, a trustee will have to be sure to act in the best interests of a trust's beneficiaries.

In some cases, this can become complicated because there are multiple people who all have their own interests and agenda. It is possible that what a beneficiary wants is not in the best interest of the trust or is contrary to the intent of the deceased grantor as expressed in the trust's provisions. However, if the trustee fails to act in a responsible manner, he or she could incur financial penalties or be subject to legal action. Trustees should know that they can turn to an attorney for help if they need it.

Dealing with an incompetent or lazy executor

Families in California may face a difficult situation after the death of beloved family members, especially if the executor named to oversee the estate and the probate process is incompetent or lazy. A poor executor can make it difficult to settle the estate quickly and easily, causing probate costs to rise and delays to become the norm. When planning their estates, many people name friends or close family as executors without considering the consequences. Once the executor is already in place, families may wonder what they can do to improve the situation.

When families are faced with an incompetent or lazy executor, they may need to go to court to address the problem. Other beneficiaries can go to probate court and bring forward evidence to show that the executor is not capable of completing the task of settling the estate. The people who want to challenge the executor need to show that they are entitled to do so by their own connection to the estate and prove that the executor is actually incompetent beyond a conflict of ideas or visions.

Singer's children allowed to contest his will

Music fans in California may be following the drama surrounding Glen Campbell's estate. A judge in Nashville ruled that three of his children will be able to contest wills that were dated in 2001 and 2006. The three children were not entitled to any type of inheritance according to the contents of those documents. Campbell experienced symptoms of Alzheimer's disease prior to his death, and the children questioned whether their father had the capacity to agree to those documents.

They also believe that he left them out of his will because of undue influence. According to the 2006 will, his wife was named executor of the estate and also stood to benefit from it. It also named five other children as beneficiaries to the late singer's estate. Campbell's widow is not objecting to the will contest, and there was no other opposition according to the judge.

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