Legendary Oscar-winning actor Marlon Brando left the bulk of his estate (worth approximately $26 million) to his producer, other associates, and his longtime housekeeper, Angela Borlaza.
Brando created a valid last Will and testament. However, he did not include Borlaza—who later sued alleging that Brando promised that she would inherit his home when he died.
A Promise Is A Promise…
While a promise is a promise, it can be easily broken. In this case, Brando either never promised Borlaza anything or promised to give her the home, but never got around to putting it in his will. Borlaza claimed the latter and sued his estate for $627,000.
However, since the alleged promise was oral, the court was restrained by what was contained in Brando’s will on the assumption that he made all of his wishes known. Borlaza eventually settled the matter for $125,000, but she was lucky to get even that.
Making oral promises to someone about what they’ll inherit when you die generally fail without some other proof that the promise was valid such as someone else being part of the conversation in which the promise was made. Short of that, courts can – and reasonably must – rely upon the documents in front of it when probating an estate.
Put It in Writing:
Make sure that your loved ones receive everything you promised them by putting your wishes in writing through a last will and testament, a trust, or another estate planning tool. Don’t rest on your laurels. It is imperative to update your estate plan documents when any significant or life changing events occur such as:
- a new oral promise you made to someone
- circumstance changes (change in health, wealth, or state of residence)
- income changes
Need help putting your wishes in writing? It’s easier than you think and will give you the peace of mind that your loved ones aren’t forgotten.
If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.