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Can Your Children Handle an Inheritance?

A family business presents unique estate planning challenges. You may want your children to share equally in your overall estate, but at the same time, your children may not be equally capable or invested in your business. It is also important to make sure any child you groom to take over a family is business is capable of doing so. Failure to properly plan in this area can lead to a number of legal problems after your death.

Son Convicted of Stealing Assets From Father’s Estate

Sometimes those legal problems may even include criminal prosecution. Recently a San Diego appeals court upheld the criminal conviction of a man accused of stealing from his late father’s estate. Although this is case is not binding precedent, it does illustrate the types of problems that can arise when there is a lack of proper estate planning.

The father owned a cattle ranch. He did not leave a will or make any other estate planning arrangements. This meant that upon his death, California law automatically divided the entire estate among his three children—the defendant in this case and his two sisters. The defendant apparently had a number of issues with drug and gambling addiction. Despite this, the sisters agreed to let him manage the ranch after their father’s death, as he knew its operations and was the only one of the children who lived near the property.

Sometime in November 2009, the defendant, without his sisters’ permission, took several cattle from the ranch to Nevada, where he sold the livestock at auction. The defendant then converted the proceeds from the sale—a check written to the ranch—and converted them into travelers’ checks payable to himself. The defendant then cashed those checks and proceeded to lose all of the money gambling in Nevada.

A private investigator hired by the sisters eventually uncovered the defendant’s actions. He was then criminally prosecuted for the theft of the cattle. He was also charged with stealing the father’s truck by filing a false title-transfer affidavit with the California Department of Motor Vehicle stating he was his father’s only heir at law. A jury later convicted the defendant on multiple criminal charges. The California Court of Appeal largely upheld the verdict, although it did reverse one of the defendant’s convictions due to an improper jury instruction.

Get Advice From a San Diego Estate Planning Lawyer

If you own your own business and have any concerns about your children taking over, you should speak with a San Diego estate planning attorney right away. A business is not like other assets such as your house or car. It is complex undertaking that you may have spent years building. Internal family problems should not cause the demise of your business legacy.

Even if you do not own a business, an estate plan is still a necessity. This is especially true if you have children with a history of financial or other problems and you have concerns about their ability to manage an inheritance. Whatever your situation, contact the Law Office of Scott C. Soady today.

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