Mistreated Beneficiaries: Translating the Language of Probate and Trust Litigation

In California as somewhere else, a lot of people are generally unwilling individuals in estate conflicts. There’s no difference whether the conflict entails trust litigation, probate lawsuits or a Will Contest.

People who are frozen out of Wills and Trust usually do not use legal words of art to explain their predicament. More likely, they are apt to explain themselves as a daughter or son whose inheritance was taken by a stepmother, stepfather or caretaker during the last months of their mom or dad’s life.
Getting terms down in estate associated litigation is rather complicated – even for lawyers. A “Beneficiary” suggests an individual to whom a donative transfer of property is made or that individual’s follower in interest. A donative transfer is the voluntary present of property from one person to another.

The recipient of a donative transfer who receives the present by operation of law in an intestate estate is an “heir.” An intestate estate refers to a situation where a person passes away without leaving a valid will.
The recipient of a donative transfer – a present – who gets the present by operation of a legitimate Will in a “testate” estate is a “devisee.”

Now I need to state that I have never ever had actually a client come to me and tell me that she is a “Devisee” under a Will. Maybe someone might have said this a a century ago, however unless the customer is a teacher of Wills and Trusts, it is a not likely reference.
Many initial interviews with abused recipients or damaged heirs have the initial flavor of “Another Someone Done Somebody Incorrect Song” – “A real hurtin’ song about a love that’s failed.” While the love that’s gone incorrect might not be adultery, it is generally a love in between relative that is disrupted by the wrongdoing of another. Such misdeed has real-life unfavorable psychological and financial consequences. We come in to reverse the consequences or to lessen them.

Probate lawsuits lawyers or Trust lawsuits attorneys are engaged by beneficiaries or beneficiaries for many factors – among them and typically contests about the credibility of trusts or trust changes, the credibility of the visit of trustees or the abuse of trusts by selected trustees, obstacles over the credibility of Wills as well as differences over what property remains in a Trust or Estate.
The ultimate quest in Estate lawsuits 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 disagreements. While few enjoy the possibility of suits we live in a society where nonviolent methods of dispute resolution exist. This is the function of the Courts and they do a good task at resolution – resolutions that otherwise seem intractable without the intervention of the legal system.