Comedian Richard Pryor and His Last Act

Richard Pryor's kids probably did not think the comedian was being funny when he secretly re-married his care custodian in his later years; and consequently, revised his estate plan to leave substantial assets to his wife rather than his children. Instead of laughing all the way to the bank, the children attempted to set aside his will on grounds of undue influence. Specifically, Elizabeth, Richard's daughter, claimed that the marriage was due to fraud and undue influence accordingly, the statutory presumption of undue influence in transfers to care custodians should apply.

Elizabeth cited California Probate Code section 21350 which limits the group of individuals to whom gifts can be made. In particular, donative transfers to a care custodian of a dependent adult who is the transferor is deemed invalid. Under the Welfare and Institutions Code, a care custodian is a person or agency which provides health or social services to elderly persons or dependent adults.

The wife demurred invoking the spousal exception of Probate Code section 21351(a), which specifically states that Section 21350 does not apply if the transferor is related by blood or marriage to, is a cohabitant with, or is the registered domestic partner, pursuant to Division 2.5 of the Family Code, of the transferee or the person who drafted the instrument. The trial court sustained the demurrer and subsequently dismissed the action. Elizabeth appealed.

More on this topic in subsequent blogs.

*This blog entry was not written by an Attorney and should not be construed as professional legal advice.

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