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Can We Learn from the Presley’s Estate Fight?

Priscilla Presley’s fight to remain trustee of Lisa Marie Presley’s trust can teach anyone a few lessons on proper estate planning.

Priscilla Presley, mother of the only daughter of Elvis Presley, argues that a 2016 amendment to Lisa Marie’s trust, which removed her as co-trustee, is invalid. The amendment replaced her and Lisa Marie’s former business manager as co-trustees with her children Riley and Benjamin Keough (the latter of whom died in 2020).

MarketWatch’s recent article entitled, “Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley can teach us some estate-planning lessons,” reported that Presley said she was never told that she was being replaced, as was required. She also said her name was misspelled, her daughter’s signature was ‘inconsistent’ with her usual autograph and the amendment wasn’t witnessed or notarized. We can learn that estate planning must be meticulous, and the Presleys provide some simple lessons for anyone looking to create or amend an estate.

Follow the trust rules. Priscilla said she was supposed to be told if she was to be replaced as co-trustee, but she wasn’t. The trust sets out the rules. If you’re going to make an amendment, you must follow what the trust says. There may be consequences if the rules aren’t followed precisely. For example, Lisa Marie’s latest amendment allegedly ignored one of the rules of her trust when her mother wasn’t notified that she’d been replaced as co-trustee. This is where having an experienced estate planning attorney is critical: they can spot mistakes and understand legal language and procedures, so these important documents are upheld in court.

Update your documents when necessary . The amendment Priscilla is contesting was made in 2016 and named two of Lisa Marie’s children as the new co-trustees. However, one died four years later. If a judge deems the amendment valid, what happens next will depend on what the trust specifically says about one co-trustee predeceasing the granter of the trust. You should also review your documents every few years, or when major life events occur, such as a birth, death, marriage, or divorce.

Inform trustees. Deciding who will be trustee to an estate can be challenging. It’s not uncommon for successors to not know they were named. However, they should be notified of this critical job.

Get your paperwork witnessed or notarized – even when you don’t have to. Priscilla’s name being misspelled in the amendment raises questions because she was referring to her mother. In addition, the fact that her name is spelled incorrectly creates issues. A witness or notarization can avoid any additional legal hurdles with a misspelled name or an inconsistent signature. The court will need handwriting experts to examine Lisa Marie’s amendment and determine if it was actually her signature.

Reference: MarketWatch (Feb. 4, 2023) “Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley can teach us some estate-planning lessons”