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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"No Contest" Trends in California

There are two interrelated concepts flowing in Trusts and Estates law in California. First, there is an interesting article in Smart Money discussing the new trend toward litigation in the estates and trusts area, and how the cooperative, family approach is going "by the wayside" in favor of litigation. Here is the first paragraph:

It's rare that an inheritance passes from one generation to the next without leaving some scars. But smooth transitions are becoming even rarer thanks to the growing influence of a new player: the second spouse. As Americans live longer, they're more likely to move into second marriages, and legal experts and financial planners say the resulting friction with the kids is steadily mounting. In more cases grown children are going to court against their parents even while they're still alive, only to run up against a legal framework that leaves them with surprisingly few rights compared with their parents' new spouses. The once-sleepy field of trust and estates law is now brimming with hardened litigators. In Texas, personal-injury lawyers in search of big paydays have begun taking on will contests. And just as court squabbles are on the rise, so are prenups and sophisticated trusts that are designed to forestall them.
The second trend? With the advent of passage of Senate Bill 1264, California's "no contest" law has been significantly weakened. This weakening affects wills and trusts executed 2001 and later. "No contest" clauses traditionally penalize parties who attempt to attack a will or a trust. Now, it will be significantly easier to attack a will or a trust.

Welcome the lawyers...

1 comment:

Hawley said...

Ethical wills can prevent litigation over legal wills. I gave "Ethical Will" workshops for attorneys in Santa Barbara who received continuing education credits for attending. They taught me why an ethical will replaces the "testament" in a last will and testament and can eliminate litigation. A PowerPoint presentation at my Web site is based on the Santa Barbara workshops. To learn more or to help your clients understand why they need an ethical will (and to download a free guide) see "Ethical Wills" at

Hawley Roddick