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The Descendants: Lessons Learned II

As discussed in the previous post, the film, The Descendants, focuses on the character of Matt King who is dealing with family issues that range from the health care of his ailing wife to administering a family trust to which he is left as the sole trustee.

In that trust, Matt King's ancestors have left a significant amount of undeveloped Hawaiian land to him as well as several other cousins who are beneficiaries of the interest vested in that property. If you have seen the movie, then you may remember them discussing what was called the rule against perpetuities. It was because of this rule that the land had to be sold within a specific period of time.

The rule against perpetuities is common law that provides that trusts may not last longer than 21 years after the death of the last potential beneficiary to die, but who was living at the time the trust was created. This rule prevents a person from placing any criteria in their will that could control the affect or distribution of assets long after they die. This is sometimes referred to as control by the 'dead hand.'

In the United States, rules against perpetuities are handled differently amongst the states. In California, what is called the Uniform Statutory Rule Against Perpetuities has been enacted. This provides that a trust may last at least 90 years before the common law rule is applied. (Probate Code Sec. 21200-21231) This could end up being a very long time.

Fortunately for Matt King, his profession in the film was that of an Attorney. But life is not like the movies and most people are not able to create, let alone, administer their own estate instruments. Please consult with a knowledgeable Estate Administration Attorney when executing such complicated trusts and other estate instruments.

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

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