A Trust Dispute
It made headlines when Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of the great Elvis Presley, suddenly passed away on January 12, 2023. However, shortly after that, the headlines quickly shifted to the dispute over who will be handling Lisa Marie’s trust now that she has passed away.
In 1993, Lisa Marie established a trust with assets left to her from her father’s estate. Lisa Marie’s mother, Priscilla Presley, and the family’s business manager, Barry Siegel, served as trustees of this trust.
Unfortunately, after years of economic decline and alleged poor business decisions, Lisa Marie claimed her trust was left with very few assets and unsurmountable debt. In 2016, litigation between Lisa Marie and Barry Siegel surrounding the handling of the trust assets ensued. Barry’s legal team claimed that Lisa Marie was to blame for the financial situation.
Litigation Over Lisa Marie Presley’s Estate
On January 26, 2023, some two weeks after Lisa Marie’s passing, Priscilla filed court documents. These documents challenged a 2016 amendment to Lisa Marie’s trust, which purported to remove Priscilla and Barry as trustees. The amendment also designated Lisa Marie’s children Riley Keough and Benjamin Keough (who died in 2020) as co-trustees. Priscilla’s court filings challenged the validity of the 2016 amendment.
Although Barry acknowledged receiving notice of his removal as trustee during litigation with Lisa Marie, Priscilla argued that the 2016 amendment was invalid. It was never delivered to her during Lisa Marie’s lifetime, as she alleges was required by the trust’s language to remove her as trustee effectively. Priscilla also argued the 2016 amendment may have been fraudulent. She argued that Lisa Marie’s signature on the amendment was inconsistent with her usual signature. Ultimately, Priscilla requested the court hold the 2016 amendment invalid. Moreover, she requested the court recognize her as trustee of Lisa Marie’s trust. Now, Priscilla and her granddaughter, Riley Keough, will await the court’s decision as to who will act as trustee of Lisa Marie’s trust.
Competent Counsel You Can Trust
The above scenario is a prime example of why it is imperative that the language of the trust is thoroughly reviewed and followed. This is especially important when making changes to the trust. Unfortunately, too often, we see trustors that wanted to amend their trust. However, the trust amendment was not done so properly. After the trustor’s death, this can lead to questions as to whether the trustor intended to make these changes. Then, arguments arise about whether those changes are really effective, as is now the case with Lisa Marie’s family.
Whether an amendment was not properly documented as required by the trust language or perhaps the correct people did not execute the document, numerous issues can arise when making changes to trusts. That is why it is critical that any trustor, when contemplating making changes to their trust, engage with competent counsel. Competent counsel can walk through the provisions of your trust and the requirements when amending same. Having competent counsel now ensures all steps are properly followed. This will avoid costly litigation after your passing.
Whether you had another child or want to change successor trustee nominations dictating who will control your trust after you die, if you are interested in making any changes to your trust, we encourage you to seek competent counsel. Our firm offers a free initial consultation to discuss any amendments to your trust. We can review current provisions and discuss your desired changes. Please feel free to reach out should you have any questions at all.
This article was featured in Law & Stein’s monthly newsletter.