Estate Planning Case Studies The Names Have Been Changed
Attorneys’ fortunes rise and fall with the ringing of the phone. Some calls bring employment opportunities. Others signal the end of a representation. Many calls concern estate planning and probate.
There are lessons to be learned by the summary of a recent week’s calls. (The fact situations are real, although the names have been changed to preserve confidentiality.)
Monday: Albert called. His father died, leaving Albert a $400,000 house and a $150,000 stock account. All were in Father’s living trust. As successor trustee, Albert asked the attorney to “handle everything.” Attorney prepared a deed for the house and a letter of instruction to the stockbroker. Total cost of legal services: $300.
Tuesday: Beth called. Her husband, president and 25 percent stockholder of a small manufacturing company, died last year. There was no buy-sell agreement. The remaining stockholders refuse to buy out the husband’s stock. Beth asks the attorney to determine whether there is fraud or whether the remaining officers and directors are lining their pockets at the expense of the minority stockholders. There may also have to be a probate to clear Beth’s title to stock, which is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars on paper.
Wednesday: Charles called. His mother died. What should he do? Attorney had prepared a living trust for Mother last year. She had funded it fully. Charles is the Successor Trustee. An hour’s consultation should be enough to show Charles what must be done to pay bills and transfer assets to the beneficiaries.
Thursday: Edgar called. His parents died in an auto accident. They left a substantial estate, but no trust. Edgar will have to commence probate proceedings, which the attorney estimates will cost in excess of $15,000 and will take over a year to complete.
Friday: Florence called. Last week she signed her living trust agreement and related documents. The deed transferring her house to the trustee of the trust has been recorded. She has transferred her bank accounts to the trustee. She’s quite relieved to have gotten all this done before her pending European trip.
Box score for the week: Some runs, some hits, no errors. The down side: losing valued clients. The upside, for the attorney: knowing that he had helped some clients to avoid probate, protect their loved ones and carry out their wishes.
Jerry Kessler practices law in Santa Clarita. You may call him at 661-255-1001.
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