California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division
Superior Court County of Santa Barbara No. 18PR00032, Colleen
K. Sterne, Judge
Stone Law Group, Kenneth H. Stone and Scott G. Braden, for
Defendant and Appellant.
Reicker, Pfau, Pyle & McRoy, Alan A. Blakeboro, Diana
Jessup Lee and Meghan K. Woodsome, for Plaintiff and
Code section 21135 provides that transfers
of property to a person during the transferor's lifetime
will be treated as an at death transfer to the person under
certain conditions. All of these conditions require a
writing. Here we decide that the transferor's record of
amounts he periodically distributed to his children is a
writing that satisfies the requirements of section 21135.
M. Sachs appeals from the probate court's order granting
a petition for instructions. (§ 17200.) The order
allowed the trustee (his sister, Benita Sachs) to treat
lifetime gifts to trust beneficiaries as advances on their
inheritances. We affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
L. Sachs had two children, Benita and Avram. David
established a trust in 1980 when Benita was 20 years old and
Avram was 12. The trust provided for small distributions to
other beneficiaries, but most of the trust corpus would be
distributed to Benita and Avram equally on David's death.
David was the original trustee.
David began to keep track of money distributed to his
children on papers he referred to as the “Permanent
Record.” When a child asked for money, David would tell
the child that the distribution would be reflected on the
2013 David began to experience cognitive problems due to a
stroke. He hired Ronda Landrum as his bookkeeper to help
manage his finances. At David's instruction Landrum
continued to make distributions to Avram and Benita. Landrum
said David was adamant that she keep a record of the
distributions. After a distribution was made David would
often confirm that the distribution was on the list. Landrum
kept a list for each child in the form of an electronic
spreadsheet. David told Landrum on more than one occasion
that keeping the list was important so that payments made to
his children could be deducted from their respective
October 2013 David resigned as trustee and Benita became the
successor trustee. Following her appointment, she found the
Permanent Record among her father's papers. The record
consists of a separate file for each child. The entries were
made entirely in David's handwriting. The papers list the
dates and the amounts distributed beginning when each child
attained age 30. The entries were not all made with the same
pen, and the papers were of different types and ages.
September 2014 Landrum advised the children that expenditures
for David's residential care and payments to the children
were depleting the trust at a rapid rate. Avram continued to
ask Benita for distributions from the trust. Benita's
resistance caused friction between the siblings. In a series
of e-mails Avram sought to assure Benita by repeatedly
stating that the distributions would go on his record. One of
the e-mails acknowledged that previous distributions made by
David went on his record.
October 2015 Benita learned that Avram was contending the
Permanent Record did not exist or that he was not bound by
it. By then, David's mental condition had deteriorated to
such an extent that he could not be asked about his intention
in creating the Permanent Record.
David's death, Benita filed this petition for
instructions to equalize the distribution of assets from the
trust. She claimed that the disparity in lifetime
distributions in favor of Avram should be deducted from
Avram's distributive share of the trust. The trial court
granted the ...