My aunt was murdered by her husband in the state of California. They had a trust which he made amendments to a very short time before he murdered her. Our family is interested in either getting the assets restored to what she wanted on the original trust agreement and/or a wrongful death suit, but we do not know how to go about it as we are in the state of Texas. Will his amendments stay? If he dies before he is actually convicted, then what happens?
4 Answers from Attorneys
I'm sorry for your loss, especially under such circumstances. It sounds like you have quite a difficult situation to deal with, personally and legally. Unfortunately, the facts you briefly lay out in your question raise more questions than they answer. Did he make the changes without her consent? If so, how? Forged? If not, is there a way to dispute the consent? If he dies you can still tie up the assets, but evidentiary issues come up. That's just the first few that come to mind. You need to find a California attorney local to where she lived before he killed her. There is no reason you cannot handle legal proceedings in CA from TX, but it will have to be done by a CA lawyer. Let me know if I can be of further assistance.
You can simply hire an attorney where the death took place, or where the defendant lives or lived. Any estate planning documents may be able to be considered not to give anything to the person who caused the deat. Seek Attorneys.
I am terribly sorry for your loss. Please accept my condolences.
The law, of course, only has limited ability to address your emotional pain, but there may be remedies available. You definitely need to hire an attorney here to pursue the available remedies, if for no other reason than geography.
To look for a lawyer, you can browse this site, or you can contact the Bar Association in the area where your aunt lived and look through their referral panel. There are many of us here on lawguru that represent people who are outside the state.
It is not clear whether the trust amendments can be set aside. An alternative approach is the application of the "slayer rule," which might prevent the husband from inheriting.
I don't see why the other attorneys are worried about the validity of the amendments. California's slayer rule is embodied at Probate Code section 250. You can read it here: http://law.onecle.com/california/probate/250.html