Friday, March 02, 2007

Don't Be Anna: Take a Look at the Will

Category: Estate Planning, Probate and Estate Administration

While wholeheartedly agreeing with Joel Schoenmeyer's initial comments below, I too find Anna Nicole Smith's Last Will and Testament fascinating, for all the wrong reason.

Problems with Anna Nicole Smith's Will :: Death and Taxes Blog: "I've stayed away from blogging about the Anna Nicole Smith situation so far, as I'm not particularly interested in the tabloid aspects of Ms. Smith's life. However, another estate planning attorney e-mailed me a copy of Ms. Smith's Will (here as a pdf), and I had to take a look. I found it fascinating for reasons other than the fact that Ms. Smith lived a very messy life."

Joel goes on to look at a mess of contradictions in the Will about who is to inherit. You would think that a person who had legal representation up to snuff enough to take her husband's probate issue before the United States Supreme Court on a question to true legal merit, would be more careful about her own will. Not that I have a crystal ball, but I predict this one will be tied up in court for just as long.

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At 3/02/2007 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neither the disinheritance clause nor the distiinction between 'child' or 'children' is likely to be problematic. Disinheritance clauses like this are commin in CA. The Will includes standard language stating the singular includes plural and vice versa. Clearly, she intended to disinherit everyone but her now deceased son. The trust should fail for lack of a beneficiary. The result is that all her property will pass by intestacy to her now living daughter, subject to a court appointed guardian.
The problem with this Will is the incredible vagueness in the Trust created for her son. Except for specifying an ascertainable standard and distribution plan, the trust has no administrative provisions and PROVIDES NO GIFT OVER upon the premature death of the son. The lack of a gift over is, in my opion, malpractice. Stern might argue (I hope unsucessfully) that he has been implicitly granted the power to hold the property in trust for the daughter (by writing a gift over provision into the trust in her favor). This should not prevail because it would amount to a power to rewrite her Will.
Vagueness should not be interpreted to grant a power of appointment. Lack of specifity in the trust is the real problem; why complain about the other trivial matters?


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