Archive for the ‘Trusts and estates’ Category

Greenspan v. LADT LLC – Once and for All, a Trust Is Not an Entity (2016-5-26)

Sometimes a court provides a clear statement of the law.  Greenspan v. LADT LLC (2010) 191 Cal.App.4th 486 is one such opinion, providing a definite and authoritative answer to the issue of whether a trust is an entity – it is not. From the opinion. “Courts often speak of the alter ego doctrine as if […]






Estate of Britel – When is a Child Not a Child? (2015-6-12)

The law is filled with rules.  Rules give guidance to judges. Sometimes the legal result does not square with the facts.  In Estate of Britel (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 127, “the court admitted into evidence a DNA test showing a 99.9996 percent probability that the decedent (Amine Britel) was A.S.’s (the child’s) father.”  Yet the court […]






U.S. v. Milovanovic – Ninth Circuit Adopts a Sloppy Fiduciary Standard (2012-5-9)

Case law reflects a tension in the interpretation of fiduciary duties. One camp favors a “I know it when I see it” approach, while the more rigorous jurists seek to discern the basis for imposition of such liability. This tension is on full display in the recent en banc decision in U.S. v. Milovanovic, ___ […]






A. W. B. Simpson on English Wills in the 12th and 13th Centuries (2012-4-22)

A study of the ancient English common law begins, for many points, with the law that developed after 1066.  The history of inheritances of land is certainly curious, as we inevitably find it tied to the duties owed in a feudal, agricultural society. Here is an excellent analysis from Oxford Prof. A. W. B. Simpson. […]






L.S. Sealy – Categories of Fiduciary Duties (2012-1-10)

In a law review article published 50 years ago, Cambridge law professor L.S. Sealy reviewed two centuries of English case law on fiduciary relationships.  He concluded, correctly, that different relationships give rise to different duties. As a starting point, “Fletcher Moulton L.J. once warned against what he called ‘the danger of trusting to verbal formulae’ […]






The Long-Standing Connection Between Real Estate Law and Probate (2011-10-31)

I am reading a series of lectures delivered in 1972 by S.F.C. Milsom and collected in The Legal Framework of English Feudalism (Cambridge University Press 1976).  The text is difficult, as it frequently refers to rights, remedies, and procedures that long ago ceased to be relevant in the law of English-speaking nations. Still, as I […]






Estate of Giraldin – Trustee Does Not Owe Duties Future Beneficiaries of Estate Planning Trust (2011-10-4)

This author has often complained that the trust laws have not kept pace with modern practice as it relates to estate planning.  Estate planning trusts (a.k.a. “living trust”) are used as will substitutes.  The rules pertaining to wills are well known, and are established by case and by code. In contrast, the statutory rules relating […]






Weinberger v. Morris – Why Doesn’t the Merger Doctrine Extinguish Many Living Trusts? (2011-9-19)

This writer has commented regularly that the modern estate planning trust is a legal fiction.  A convenient legal fiction, mind you, but still a legal fiction. The estate planning trust (also known by the unfortunate term, “living trust”) is a merely a will substitute.  It takes effect – meaning, it provides a benefit to a […]






Tracing the Origin of the English Trust to the Year 1350 (2011-8-21)

Here is the clearest explanation I have found to date regarding the rise of trusts in English law.  Bear in mind that England was still a feudal system in the year 1350.  Also bear in mind that a court of law could not enforce a trust – such jurisdiction lay within the court of equity, […]






Bellows v. Bellows – Further Proof That Estate Planning Trusts Are Not Always a Good Idea (2011-7-4)

The fees in a probate case trigger a reaction that sometimes borders on panic.  Part of the reasoning behind the use of an estate planning trust (sometimes referred to as an inter vivos trust) is that the trust will save on attorney’s fees. However, as I tell clients, it only works if the beneficiaries get […]