“The Issues Surrounding Lisa Marie Presley’s Estate” by Attorney Beth Burgee
There is a lot of news swirling around about Lisa Marie Presley’s estate. One aspect of the story focuses on Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie’s mother, contesting the validity of an amendment to Lisa Marie’s trust. Another part of the story centers on the large amount of debt owed by Lisa Marie. Both of these facets of Lisa Marie’s estate administration show the importance of a proper estate plan.
Reportedly, Priscilla Presley was originally named as a successor co-trustee along with Lisa Marie’s former business manager. However, an amendment to the trust in 2016 changed the successor trustees to Lisa Marie’s two oldest children. Priscilla is now challenging the validity of the 2016 amendment. She alleges that she did not receive a copy of the amendment as specified in the trust, and that her name is misspelled throughout the amendment. While it is not unusual to change trustees, not adhering to the alleged requirement to provide Priscilla with an amendment and the misspelling of Priscilla’s name plants seeds of doubt as to the validity of the amendment.
She also alleges that the amendment was not properly executed as it was not witnessed nor notarized. If this is true, then it could cause a big issue for proponents of the amendment. The document must be properly executed to be valid and in the majority of cases this means it needs to be notarized and witnessed as laid out by the governing jurisdiction. Proper execution of documents is just as important as the substance. You can have the documents worded exactly as you want, but if they are not executed properly, it does not matter.
Priscilla’s contestation of the amendment also raises questions as to what else was changed in the amendment. If only the trustees were changed, then Priscilla would still have to follow the terms of original trust document as trustee if the amendment is thrown out. As trustee, she would have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries.
The other aspect of Lisa Marie’s estate that has news sites buzzing is the fact that she supposedly had millions of dollars of debt. The question arises as to what happens with this. The answer differs depending on if the assets are going through probate or are in a trust. In Maryland, if a regular estate is opened then a creditor has six months from the date of death to file a claim. For trust assets in Maryland, creditors have three years to file a claim unless you shorten the claim period by publishing notice. If a claim is valid, then it has to be paid by the fiduciary in charge of the estate. It is important that any claims are paid before distributions are made. Otherwise, there may not be enough money left to cover the claims and the fiduciary will be on the hook. In Lisa Marie’s case her estate most likely has enough assets to pay any claims. However, the fiduciary in charge still has to be careful about not distributing money before claims are paid.
The issues surrounding Lisa Marie Presley’s estate highlight the importance of both sides of working with estates. On the estate planning side, ensuring documents are properly prepared and executed is a must. On the estate administration side, it is important to know the ins and outs of rules surrounding many different areas, such as creditor’s claims. When working through planning your estate or settling an estate of a loved one, you should seek assistance from a trust and estates attorney who can guide you through the correct procedures.
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