The California Court of Appeals has recognized for the first time that an unmarried same-sex partner may have what is known in legal language as expectation of inheritance. That result was reached in the ongoing inheritance case of a late California man and his partner, which may change the landscape of probate law in the state.
The case stems from a situation where a dying man asked his male partner to retrieve a will naming the partner and the man's sister as beneficiaries of his estate. According to the partner, however, the man's sister foiled this request. She said that she would create a trust to carry out her brother's wishes, but never followed through on that promise. The man's partner then sued the sister for his share of the estate, claiming that the sister intentionally interfered with the inheritance he expected to receive.
While interference with expectation of inheritance is a generally well-recognized cause of action in the probate courts of most states, this California case marks the first time any court has extended the right to a same-sex partner. After acknowledging that the partner had an expectation of inheritance, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. The case is ongoing, but depending on the evidence regarding the man's intentions, his partner could receive his share of the estate.
Of course, leaving matters of inheritance until one's deathbed is never preferred, and this entire situation could have been avoided with some foresight and proper estate planning. It is never too early to plan for the inevitable, and an experienced estates and trusts attorney can ensure that one's assets are properly distributed to loved ones, charitable organizations or otherwise.
Source: Advocate.com "Why Californians may need to thank Rock Hudson's partner," Trudy Ring, July 12, 2012.