Abused Beneficiaries: Translating the Language of Probate and Trust Litigation

In California as in other places, the majority of people are usually unwilling participants in estate disputes. There’s no difference whether the disagreement involves trust litigation, probate litigation or a Will Contest.

Individuals who are frozen out of Wills and Trust generally do not use legal words of art to describe their predicament. Most likely, they are apt to explain themselves as a child or child whose inheritance was taken by a stepmother, stepfather or caretaker during the last months of their mother or dad’s life.
Getting terminology down in estate associated lawsuits is somewhat confusing – even for legal representatives. A “Beneficiary” means an individual to whom a donative transfer of property is made or that person’s successor in interest. A donative transfer is the voluntary present of property from one individual to another.

The recipient of a donative transfer who gets the gift by operation of law in an intestate estate is an “successor.” An intestate estate refers to a circumstance where a person dies without leaving a legitimate will.
The recipient of a donative transfer – a gift – who receives the present by operation of a legitimate Will in a “testate” estate is a “devisee.”

Now I have to say that I have never had a customer pertained to me and inform me that she is a “Devisee” under a Will. Maybe somebody might have stated this a hundred years earlier, however unless the client is a teacher of Wills and Trusts, it is an unlikely reference.
Many preliminary interviews with mistreated recipients or hurt beneficiaries have the initial flavor of “Another Someone Done Someone Wrong Tune” – “A real hurtin’ tune about a love that’s failed.” While the love that’s failed might not be infidelity, it is typically a love between household members that is disrupted by the misbehavior of another. Such misbehavior has real-life negative emotional and monetary repercussions. We come in to reverse the consequences or to reduce them.

Probate lawsuits lawyers or Trust litigation lawyers are engaged by recipients or successors for lots of reasons – among them and typically contests about the credibility of trusts or trust amendments, the credibility of the consultation of trustees or the abuse of trusts by selected trustees, difficulties over the validity of Wills as well as distinctions over what property is in a Trust or Estate.
The ultimate mission in Estate litigation is justice and the effectuation of the intent of the Trust maker (the “Settlor” or “Trustor”) or Will maker (“Testator”). Filing Court of probate petitions and/or Grievances in California Superior Courts bring Court oversight to the decision and timing of Estate conflicts. While couple of enjoy the prospect of lawsuits we reside in a society where nonviolent methods of disagreement resolution exist. This is the function of the Courts and they do an excellent task at resolution – resolutions that otherwise seem intractable without the intervention of the legal system.