Years after his parents died, Kevin O’Connor fought off two of his siblings with a legal security blanket they left him. The weapon: a power of appointment, which lets people wield control of their wealth, even decades after they die.
The O’Connor family feud erupted after the 2014 death of John, the son to whom a family trust gave part of its limited partnership in an apartment complex and the power to designate beneficiaries of his share of the estate. The language was clear: If he didn’t pick a beneficiary, his holdings would be divided among his three surviving siblings. Two weeks before he died, John executed a will that carefully cited that legal authority from his parents and chose his brother Kevin to take his share—cutting out siblings Astrid and Brian. They filed suit, claiming Kevin couldn’t be the sole beneficiary because John didn’t specifically cite his appointment authority.
But they recently lost in a Southern California appellate court, which said it pored over John’s will and found that its “language contains sufficient detail to constitute a specific reference to the power of appointment granted to him.”
It’s unclear why the O’Connor parents specifically gave just one of their progeny the power of appointment, but it’s strong protection for others only if it’s clearly and carefully drafted. To see if a power of appointment would work for you, talk to an experienced estate lawyer about how one could preserve your wishes—years into the future. The Estate of John O’Connor (August 29, 2018, D071284) __ Cal.App.4th
About the author:
John O’Grady leads a full-service estate and trust law firm in San Francisco. His practice includes Estate Planning & Administration, Probate and Trust Litigation.