Who Are Your Grandchildren Under Your Estate Planning Documents?

by Richard M. Morgan

As can be seen in the case of actress Elizabeth Hurley’s son, Damian Hurley, a child born out-of-wedlock to Peter Bing’s son, Steve Bing, it clearly depends on the wording in the particular estate planning document. This is case where a trust creator, Peter Bing, who happens to be a multi-billionaire, decides after the fact that his irrevocable trust agreement did not spell out his intention to restrict who qualified as his grandchildren. As a result, he directed the Trustee to have a court interpret the trust agreement language in a more nuanced and limiting manner. As expected, the court did not go for it.

While no limiting language was used in the irrevocable trust agreement, Bing later decided that he did not intend for certain out-of-wedlock grandchildren to be included as trust beneficiaries. The court did not agree as the language was clear and unambiguous. If Bing wanted a more restrictive or nuanced definition of grandchildren he wanted to benefit in his trust, he needed to say so in the trust agreement.

The bottom line when it comes to estate planning, or for any legal contract for that matter, is to say what you mean and mean what you say. Crossing T’s and dotting I’s actually matters!

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