The world was devastated by the death of basketball star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in January, 2020. After hearing the news of Kobe’s death, fans shared the life lessons they had learned from him about hard work and family. However, as the star’s wife Vanessa Bryant began the process of settling Kobe’s estate, we unfortunately learned another lesson. This time, Vanessa’s struggle taught us the importance of proper estate planning for navigating the California probate process.

The Problem With Kobe’s Trust

According to Forbes, Kobe Bryant was worth an estimated $600 million at the time of his death in early 2020. However, even with the promise of hundreds of millions, Vanessa Bryant still faced a major problem in probate court. Namely, her 9-month-old daughter Capri was not included in Kobe’s trust documents. Unfortunately, Kobe had last updated his trust in 2017, years before the birth of his youngest daughter. As a result, Vanessa filed a petition to the California Probate Court requesting approval to include Capri in Kobe’s trust. Further, she asserted that Kobe had clear intent before his death to include all of his children as heirs.

Can Probate Court Amend an Estate Plan?

California Probate Court does have the right to amend an estate plan, according to California Probate Code Section 1504. More specifically, this law states that a settlor may amend a trust with written consent of all beneficiaries or heirs. Further, even if all beneficiaries do not agree to the change, the court may still make a modification to a trust.

Omitted Children

That said, Vanessa’s case becomes even stronger when we consider California Probate Code Section 21620:

Except as provided in Section 21621, if a decedent fails to provide in a testamentary instrument for a child of decedent born or adopted after the execution of all of the decedent’s testamentary instruments, the omitted child shall receive a share in the decedent’s estate equal in value to that which the child would have received if the decedent had died without having executed any testamentary instrument.

In other words, this probate law has actually accounted for Kobe Bryant’s exact – albeit extremely saddening – situation. More specifically, because Capri was born after Kobe’s most recent trust update, she should be provided her share of the estate based on California’s laws of intestate succession. These are the guidelines by which the court would distribute Kobe’s estate should he have died without any sort of estate plan. Ultimately, put in the simplest of terms, Capri should receive her fair share of her father’s estate.

What Can We Learn About Probate Law and Estate Planning From Kobe?

Vanessa’s unfortunate legal struggle following Kobe’s death is a reminder to us all to update our estate plans regularly. In fact, any time you or your family experience a major change in circumstances, including birth, death, and weddings, you should reevaluate your legal documents. However, be sure to read up on the specific recommendations for trusts vs. wills to determine how often you should actually be updating your estate plan, depending on which document you use.

Finally, when you’re ready to create or update an estate plan, contact A People’s Choice to learn how we can help. A People’s Choice has over 40 years’ experience assisting California residents with their estate planning documents. Plus, we have established an excellent reputation in the community. Give us a call today at 1-800-747-2780 for more information.

A People’s Choice is deeply saddened by the passing of Kobe and Gianna Bryant earlier this year. Our condolences to their family and friends.

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