Articles Posted in Estate Planning

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Boyar died in 2010, suffering from dementia. His will, under which his son Robert was administrator, distributed all property to a trust for the benefit of Boyar’s children and grandchildren. Under the trust, Robert and a bank were named co-trustees, with a provision that a trustee could be removed by beneficiaries. Less than a month before his death, Boyar had executed an amendment naming a lawyer who was his neighbor as trustee, not be subject to removal by beneficiaries. The trust provided that personal property should be divided among the children by their own agreement, which they began to do about a week after the demise. A few weeks later the lawyer informed Robert of the amendment and demanded a personal property itemization. Robert believed that the amendment, not changing substantive dispositions, was orchestrated to permit the lawyer to maintain control of the trust and collect fees. The circuit court rejected a claim of undue influence and dismissed the petition challenging the amendment. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, reasoning that there was no need to address whether the “doctrine of election” (applicable to will contests) should be extended to living trusts that serve the same purpose as a will, since that doctrine could not be invoked under the circumstances. Allowing Robert to challenge the amendment had no impact on substantive distribution. By accepting the items of personal property, he cannot be said to have made a “choice” that precludes the challenge.View "In re Estate of Boyar" on Justia Law

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Donald died in 2007 at age 84. His will, dated December, 2006, was admitted to probate. The woman he had married one year before execution of that will, Blanca, was named as executor. James, who had been held out by Donald as Donald’s biological son throughout his life, sued Blanca in her individual capacity and as executor, contesting the will. In 2000 James had learned from Donald that James’s mother, who died in 2001, married Donald, after James’ biological father abandoned them. Donald stated that a “secret” adoption had taken place. There is no legal documentation of an adoption. The disputed will states, “I am married to Blanca DeHart. I have no children.” James cited this as evidence of unsound mind and alleged that, during the brief marriage, Blanca became joint tenant on real estate, bank accounts and brokerage accounts worth millions of dollars, and obtained a power of attorney to act on her then-husband’s behalf, exercising control over his real estate dealings and sale of the family farm. The circuit court dismissed with prejudice. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, reasoning that the complaint alleged sufficient facts to state causes of action as to lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, contract for adoption and equitable adoption. The court erroneously denied a motion to compel deposition of the attorney who drafted the disputed will.View "DeHart v. DeHart" on Justia Law