By Associate Attorney Katy Currie
Recently, the news has been filled with the fight over Lisa Marie Presley’s trust after her sudden and unexpected death in January 2023. The issue is who should serve as trustee, and the reason why this is not clear is because, in 2016, Lisa Marie Presley amended her trust. This amendment removed her mother, Priscilla Presley, and Barry Siegel, the Presley family's business manager, as co-trustees and named her children, Riley and Benjamin Keough, as co-trustees instead. Benjamin passed in 2020, leaving Riley as the sole trustee. Priscilla Presley argues that the 2016 amendment is invalid because she never received a copy of the amendment.
In North Carolina, the creator of a revocable trust may revoke or amend the trust so long as they follow the procedure as it is stated in the trust document itself. If the trust states, for example, that the revocation document must be notarized, then it must be notarized. Under North Carolina law, if the method for amending the revocable trust is not stated within the trust document itself, the creator of the trust must amend their trust (1) with a later will or codicil that expressly refers to the trust or specifically devises property that would otherwise have passed according to the terms of the trust or (2) by any other written document delivered to the trustee, manifesting clear and convincing evidence of their intent to amend or revoke the trust.
So, in Lisa Marie Presley’s case, if she had lived in North Carolina, her mother would have a legitimate argument that the amendment was invalid if Priscilla Pressley was serving as the trustee in 2016.
Other estate planning documents must be amended or revoked carefully. Similar to a trust, if an agent is currently serving under a power of attorney and the principal amends or revokes it, the principal must serve the agent with a copy of the revocation. If a power of attorney document is recorded at the county Register of Deeds, a revocation of that document must also be recorded to put the world on notice that it is no longer valid.
Wills and health care documents are automatically revoked when a new document is executed; however, it is best practice to let anyone and everyone who has a copy of the document know and ask them to destroy it. Even though a later executed will revokes a prior will, if the prior will is filed or probated at the courthouse mistakenly after someone passes away, it is a lot of work for the executor to undo.
The death of a family member can, unfortunately, bring out the ugly side of some people. To ensure that your wishes are followed, you must carefully comply with the law when it comes to amending or revoking your documents. If you have additional questions or are in need of assistance, reach out to Jesson & Rains!
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Kelly Rains Jesson