Beyond E-Filing

Wagner v. Wagner, case no. B197703 (2d Dist. Apr. 23, 2008) is more than just the latest installment of a familiar sad story: siblings fighting over Mom’s estate. It introduces the secret mental claim.

Claire moved in with and took care of her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother for the four years preceding her death. Claire was the successor trustee to her mother’s living trust, so she became the trustee upon her mother’s death. Brother Kent grew impatient and dissatisfied with his sister’s administration of the trust, and convinced her to hire a lawyer. At a meeting of Kent, Claire, and the attorney, Claire told Kent that she intended to file a claim for compensation for the four years that she took care of their mother, but didn’t tell him the amount.

Claire never got around to filing the $200,000 claim until after Kent petitioned for an accounting and administration of the trust. This made the claim untimely. Give her points for originality in arguing for timeliness of her claim (emphasis added):

Anticipating this conclusion, Claire argues she effectively complied with this statute because she formed the claim in her mind within the one-year period and thus presented the claim, to herself, well within the statutory period. She reasons she was not required to present the claim in writing because she elected to proceed informally and was entitled, as trustee, to waive any defects in the presentation of the claim. The timeliness of the claim, she argues, is evidenced by her disclosure to Kent of her intent to submit the claim at their June 2004 meeting. According to Claire, presentation of the claim in this manner tolled the statutory one-year period while she administered the trust and prepared her accounting.

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However, Claire’s assertion she was entitled to submit an oral claim (and what her brother calls “a secret mental claim”) is contrary to the requirements of the Probate Code.

And you thought e-filing was advanced!