Many parents use the word “consequences” to try to make children think twice about the decisions they make. David Sachs followed through for real. Anything he gave to his kids was added to what he called his “Permanent Record.” When they grew up and would ask for money from the trust he set up, he said it would be documented in his family ledger—with the understanding that the funds would come out of their eventual inheritance.
The San Diego physicist died in 2016, leaving behind a trust that spelled out an equal distribution of assets between son Avram and daughter Benita and provided for pre-death distributions to both. Benita, the trustee, found her dad’s “Permanent Record” documents, did the math, and asked a court to equalize the distribution by crediting Avram for his initial dispersals from the trust of more than $450,000.
Avram, apparently hoping his father’s vaunted logbook was a mere family legend, sought to find legal magic that would consign those records to the realm of the Tooth Fairy in his pursuit of what someone in reality might call the “ole double dip.” He filed suit and claimed the papers his sister produced were not in the correct form, were unsigned, were unauthenticated, were unsupported by the evidence, and that even his email statement that the first dip “goes on my record” was not a written acknowledgment of the cash he’d already received.
On appeal, the California court delivered David’s real-world consequence for Avram, siding with his sister and stating: “In fact, keeping such a record would seem to have no purpose other than to equalize distributions between David’s children.”
Protect your loved ones from greedy double-dippers and family feuds by consulting an estate attorney when it is time to put your wishes in order—and in writing. Sachs v. Sachs, California, Second District, Div. Six, B292747 (2020).
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.