PFB Law, Professional Association
St. Paul: 651-968-1022
Toll Free: 866-561-3419
Practice Areas

Change in estate plan causes battle between heirs

It is not uncommon for St. Paul residents to change their mind from time to time, particularly after situations change over time. The same is true in estate planning, as a person may decide to change the distribution of their assets over time.

While a change of mind is perfectly acceptable, occasions can arise where a person's decision to change his or her mind can be seen as being unduly influenced by someone else who stands to benefit from the change. This can be particularly true with elderly individuals and those who are more vulnerable or susceptible to outside influence. In these instances, disputes can arise between different individuals who may be a beneficiary of the person's assets.

For instance, a legal battle has ensued over the estate of a man who developed much wealth through his frozen pizza business. The man had a trust that was controlled by attorneys in Minnesota. However, according to a recent court filing, the man decided to change his trustee while he was near death in an intensive care unit at a Minnesota hospital.

The man's children, grandchildren and other beneficiaries are now arguing over the man's $150 million estate. According to some involved in the suit, the new trustees were paid millions of dollars to manage the estate, and the change was only made after the man was mentally incapacitated shortly before his death. On the other hand, the man had apparently changed his wishes many times in the past, supporting the other side's claim that the change was legit.

The case illustrates how disputes can arise between heirs when a person makes a change in his or her estate plan while near death or in a vulnerable condition. Typically, in order to succeed with such a challenge, the persons bringing the suit must show the deceased person lacked mental capacity when the change was made, or that undue influence was applied by others. There are specific elements in each of these that must be proven, and therefore no matter what side of the dispute individuals find themselves in, it is essential to work with an attorney to determine how best to proceed in such a case.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Jeno Paulucci heirs fight over $150 million," Rene Stutzman, Jan. 18, 2014

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information