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Why We Should Avoid Using Words With Multiple Definitions

July 1, 2014

Authors

Luke Lantta

Why We Should Avoid Using Words With Multiple Definitions

July 1, 2014

by: Luke Lantta

Words or phrases sometimes get passed on from one form to another without ever stopping to give too much thought about what they might actually might mean or could be construed to mean.  It’s later – when one of those words or phrases – comes into dispute that we really dig into the implications of choosing those words.  For example, in Heath v. Heath, the Appellate Court of Connecticut had to determine what the phrase “legal representatives” meant when the “Hembdt Trust” provided that upon the death of one of the beneficiaries (“Aloise”), her interests would pass to her “legal representatives, heirs-at-law or next of kin.”

Aloise’s will provided for the creation of several testamentary trusts, including a testamentary trust for the benefit of her husband and a testamentary trust for her children.  Upon Aloise’s

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To “Revoke And Replace” Or To “Amend” Prior Language In A Trust – Is There A Difference?

April 24, 2014

Authors

Luke Lantta

To “Revoke And Replace” Or To “Amend” Prior Language In A Trust – Is There A Difference?

April 24, 2014

by: Luke Lantta

Part of the challenge of trust and estate planning lawyers is trying to anticipate the ways in which the words in an instrument will be construed down the road.  And there’s no shortage of creativity on the part of those who try to construe these instruments a certain way.  Take for example a trust amendment.  If a grantor wants to unambiguously supplant prior language in his or her trust instrument, should the grantor merely “amend” the paragraph or should the grantor explicitly “revoke and replace” the paragraph?  Does it make a difference?

In In re The H & A Neumann Revocable Trust (unpublished), the Court of Appeals of Minnesota found that it didn’t make a difference – the language was supplanted.  A beneficiary of a trust claimed that when the grantors “amended”

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Making Sure You Get The Beneficiaries’ Names Right

October 17, 2012

Authors

Luke Lantta

Making Sure You Get The Beneficiaries’ Names Right

October 17, 2012

by: Luke Lantta

A misspelled name;  an incomplete name of a charity; an “Inc.” instead of an “LLC.”  Grantors get names wrong.  Testators make typos.  Attorneys make scriveners’ errors.

Usually it isn’t that hard to figure out that the grantor actually meant “JoAnn” instead of “JoAnne” or to figure out that the grantor meant “Habitat for Humanity” and not “Habitat for Humans.”

But then there are times when getting a beneficiary’s name wrong could mean all the difference in the world.  At a minimum, it could open the door for a court to find an ambiguity in the trust instrument, which, in turn, could open the door into a very protracted, expensive court fight over the grantor’s intent.

In Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation, Inc. v. Estate of Hillman, a recent case out of Florida, we’re reminded about the need for precision in naming beneficiaries.

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Cover Page Of Trust Instrument Contradicted Text Of Trust Instrument

October 5, 2012

Authors

Luke Lantta

Cover Page Of Trust Instrument Contradicted Text Of Trust Instrument

October 5, 2012

by: Luke Lantta

When updating a particular estate planning document, it’s a good idea to double check that all estate planning documents reflect the testator or grantor’s desired changes.  So, for example, if you update a will, then it’s good practice to double check that you update any corresponding or affected language in a related trust document.  And, if you’re in the habit of using cover pages for trust documents, it’s best to make sure that the cover page actually reflects the text of the trust instrument.

In In re Eleanor V. Mirek Trust (unpublished), Joanne Kloss contended that Eleanor V. Mirek intended that she be the successor trustee of Mirek’s revocable trust upon Mirek’s death.  The Michigan probate court that heard the case, however, found that Mirek intended for her nephew, Warren Kriskywicz, to serve as the successor trustee.

To reach this decision, the probate court had to

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