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Former deputy mayor appeals probate ruling

Estate plans are created for any number of uniquely personal reasons, but for many people, one of the most popular reasons for establishing a cohesive plan is to exercise greater control over assets after death. However, some individuals in California have a different opinion on the matter and actually do not have much of an opinion about what happens to their assets. In these cases it can seem like a waste of time to create an estate plan, but wills, trusts and other important documents also play another vital role -- they can help prevent family feuds that might otherwise lead to drawn-out probate litigation.

An out-of-state former government official is appealing a recent ruling by a probate court in his state. The ruling leaves him on the hook for $2 million, which must be paid back to his father's estate. Not only did the probate court determine that he had wrongly received this amount, but it ruled that half of it should have been given to his sister, who had been cheated out of her rightful inheritance.

Part of the argument surrounding the handling of his father's estate came down to apparent memory loss. The last and final copy of the will was signed in July 2004. Later that same year, his medical records showed that he had been suffering from memory loss, which might have affected the terms and conditions found within that will. Despite claims from his surviving son that he was still able to live a mostly normal life, the probate judge pointed out that the father had not been in control of the financial side of his business since the late 1980s due to his health issues.

The probate judge ultimately determined that the son had unjustly received assets and money from his father's estate to the detriment of his sister. In his appeal, he claims that the judge had made many errors, including taking the testimony of a psychiatrist seriously. The psychiatrist, he pointed out, had never actually met his father.

Probate can be a lengthy and difficult process, especially for feuding families. Some families in California have even experienced a breakdown in relationships because of actions made during the process. Although probate absolutely has its place and can be useful when needed, individuals can help prevent unnecessary fights and feuds during probate by ensuring their estate plan is clear and up to date.

Source: journalinquirer.com, "Jarmoc appeals ruling he cheated sister out of inheritance", Alex Wood, Feb. 29, 2016

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