February 6, 2013
New Case Rules on Beneficiary Rights of an Attorney Related to Decedent By Marriage
In Estate of Lira, a California court of appeals ruled that a law allowing an attorney who was related by marriage at the time of drafting the will, but not related by marriage at the time of the decedent's death, allowed an attorney in such a situation to be a beneficiary.
Oligario Lira and Mary Terrones were married in 1968. In 2008, Mary filed a petition for dissolution of the marriage, and in 2009, before the dissolution was final, Lira executed his will and trust, naming stepson Robert, an attorney who helped draft the will, as his successor as trustee and personal representative of his estate.
On February 3, 2010, the dissolution of the marriage became final and Lira died thereafter on July 20, 2010. Mary Ratcliff filed a petition for the probate of Lira's estate while Robert Terrones filed a petition asking the court to appoint him as executor of Lira's estate. Ratcliff alleged that the will was invalid because of the law that prohibits lawyers who draft a will from benefitting from that will.
The court did not agree with Ratcliff. Instead the court reasoned that even though Robert Terrones was related by marriage to Lira at the time Lira executed his will, he was not related to him by marriage at the time of his death, so he is still able to be the executor of the estate and receive property from the trust.
See Drafter of A Will Who Is Related By Marriage to the Transferor at the TIme of the Drafting, But Not at the Time of the Death, May be a Beneficiary, Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard, Feb. 1, 2013.
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