Who Controls Lisa Marie Presley's Trust?
With the recent death of Elvis Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, there are now major questions about who controls her trust, which includes the Graceland estate.
Lisa Marie Presley created a living trust with her mother, Priscilla Presley, and former business manager, Barry Siegel, named as trustees. This move was unusual since most people creating living trusts (called grantors) keep themselves as the initial trustee. Lisa Marie changed the trust with an amendment in 2016, replacing her mother and business manager with her two oldest children. One of those children died in 2020. Her daughter, Riley Keogh, is now the remaining trustee.
However, last week, Priscilla Presley filed a petition challenging the validity of Lisa Marie's trust amendment, citing:
- The amendment was not delivered to Priscilla, so she was not notified of the change.
- Priscilla's name is misspelled in the document.
- Lisa Marie's signature on the document "appears inconsistent" with her typical signature.
- The amendment was not witnessed or notarized.
If Priscilla can prove to the court the trust amendment is invalid, the court may reinstate her as a trustee.
What Is a Trust Amendment or Trust Restatement?
A grantor (the person who creates the trust) can change a revocable living trust during the grantor's lifetime. To change a revocable living trust, you can either restate the trust or amend the trust. A trust restatement is a complete amendment to your trust (perhaps keeping some original elements). A trust amendment may cover only one or two changes.
An amendment to a trust must adhere to certain legal requirements for validity. To make your trust valid in California, you must have the following:
- Have a sound mind.
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Sign your trust documents or direct another to sign in your presence.
Will Priscilla's Challenge Prevail?
Trusts are not subject to the same legal requirements for validity as a last will and testament. And it appears Lisa Marie did not have a will, only a trust agreement.
Even if a trust amendment is not witnessed or notarized, a court may consider it valid. A court will look to Lisa Marie Presley's original trust agreement for any provision requiring a notary or witnesses for an amendment to the trust. And there is no requirement, unless stated in the original trust agreement, that trustees must be notified in writing if they are no longer trustees of the trust.
Priscilla raises other questions to dispute the trust amendment's validity, such as misspellings and authentic signatures. When challenging a trust amendment, the challenger must prove that one of the following occurred:
- Undue influence, meaning someone coerced Lisa Marie into making the trustee change and wouldn't have done so independently.
- Incompetence, meaning that Lisa Marie was of unsound mind and didn't understand the nature of her actions.
- Defective trust amendment, meaning that the amendment did not follow the required procedures outlined in the trust agreement. So, if a trust agreement stipulates that any amendments must have a notary, an unnotarized amendment is defective.
Because these elements are hard to prove and trusts do not have strict requirements for validity, it may be difficult to overturn Lisa Marie's trust amendment. Further, there are reports that Lisa Marie sued her former manager for financial mismanagement in 2018, so a court might reasonably conclude that is why she may have changed the trustees of her trust.
- Who Can Challenge a Will? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Changing a Will: How to Do It (Legal Forms & Services Resources)
- Learn More About Trusts (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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