The Issue With Issue

Issue is one of those words that used to have two meanings, but one of them really only survived outside of being used to deal with wills and trusts and other sorts of estate matters. In many centuries old documents you find that issue means offspring or direct biological decedents of the testator. Of course, this term is still in use today, however not as popular as sometimes issues arise from the use of 'issue'.

This was the case in an old California case of Citzens Bank vs. Jonathan Carrano. In this case the plaintiff claimed that the appellant was not entitled to a portion of an inheritance because he was a child born out of wedlock.

The trust instrument set up by Carrano's father defined 'issue' as children of their lineal bloodline or having been adopted of the same bloodline. Adopted children that were not of the same bloodline would not be considered a beneficiary. No mention was made of any children that are born out of wedlock. However, the trial court found in favor of the plaintiff and considered that Jonathan was not a child as the trust was not specific enough for someone under his circumstances. Even though there was no doubt he was a biological child.

He appealed on the basis that 'issue' as it was written in the trust was unambiguous. The court agreed stating that the term was very specifically defined in the trust. And promptly demanded that Jonathan be added as issue under the trust and that distribution of assets be made to him immediately.

Language is very important when creating your estate documents. Little disagreements about who is an 'issue' can lead to much bigger issues. Please contact a professional estate litigation Attorney to make sure your will and trust instruments are properly worded and defined.

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

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