The battle over the estate of Lisa Marie Presley is the latest dispute involving celebrities who died without proper estate planning. While most people don’t have an estate as large as the Presley’s, there are important lessons for anyone to learn from this situation about the importance of executing legal documents correctly and keeping them up-to-date. Taking these steps will ensure that your family members are not left with the stress and cost of litigation.
What Are the Alleged Problems with Lisa Marie Presley’s Trust?
Priscilla Presley is challenging the authenticity of a purported amendment to her daughter’s trust in 2016 that removed Priscilla and former business manager Barry Siegel as trustees of the trust and named Lisa Marie’s two adult children as trustees instead. She points to several irregularities, including:
- Lisa Marie’s signature is inconsistent with her usual handwriting and appears on a blank page by itself
- The amendment wasn’t witnessed or notarized
- The amendment wasn’t delivered to Priscilla as required by the terms of the prior 2010 trust agreement
- There is only a PDF electronic copy and no original paper copy
- Priscilla’s name was misspelled.
There are also other suspicious facts in the case. Lisa Marie sued her business manager for stealing millions of dollars from the trust but he was still serving as co-trustee with Priscilla under the 2010 trust. Priscilla had an excellent financial track record but was purportedly replaced by Lisa Marie’s children. In addition, Lisa Marie made her daughter Riley and son Benjamin co-trustees in the 2016 amendment but she didn’t update it in 2020 when her son died to name a co-trustee or successor trustee in case something happened to Riley.
How Can Problems With a Trust or Will Be Avoided?
There are several lessons to be learned from the Presley situation.
- Pay attention to trustee designations. Selecting appropriate trustees and successor trustees and filling vacancies in a timely manner are crucial to the successful and effective administration of any trust. In this case, the business manager should have been removed immediately from serving as co-trustee with Priscilla as soon as the alleged theft was discovered. Further, Lisa Marie should have notified Priscilla that she was being removed as trustee as required and another trustee should have been named once Lisa Marie’s son Benjamin died.
- Review your estate planning documents regularly. Trusts, like all estate planning documents, should be reviewed about every 3 years or sooner if there has been a death or life change of a beneficiary or trustee to ensure that the documents will continue to function as intended.
- Comply with all legal rules. It is critical to observe the formalities under the applicable state law. For example, if there must be a countersignature or proof of delivery for a trustee appointment, then you must comply.
- Avoid authenticity challenges. If you execute a legal document, make sure that you follow through on any additional steps, such as notifying the appropriate parties. Don’t sign a blank page with no other text beside your signature. Take care that your signature is consistent on all documents you sign. Finally, keep the originals in a secure location.
- Work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Your lawyer can advise you regarding how to implement your wishes and draft and help you properly execute your documents so the risks of a legal challenge are minimized.
Thanks for reading about Lisa Marie Presley’s Estate Battle. If you are considering a trust or need to update your estate plan, our attorneys have extensive experience drafting trusts and estate plans to help clients leave a lasting legacy for their families. Contact us to discuss your estate planning needs.