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Interpreting a will or trust

This blog has in many cases discussed the types of probate litigation with which Fresno, California, residents and those who live in the surrounding area are most familiar, that is, those situations in which a will or trust is challenged outright as being invalid or somehow worthy of being ignored.

However, litigation also arises when, although everyone agrees the document is valid, a will or a trust is inherently confusing in the way it is written and thus, capable of having more than one interpretation or incapable of being clearly interpreted at all. Lawyers use the words "ambiguous" and "vague" to describe these situations, and either situation can lead to problems when one person wants the will or trust to be interpreted one way but other interested parties prefer a different interpretation.

Generally speaking, the goal of interpreting a will or trust is to make sure the intentions of the person who created the document get carried out. The best option for doing so is to rely on the language of the document itself, but when this is not possible due to inartful drafting of the document or some other problem with clarity, a court can look at other evidence of what the person really mean when he or she created his or her estate plan.

This approach can be complicated, as it sometimes involves rules of interpretation or other legal nuances which even the most capable of people might not have time or energy to delve in to. Therefore, if there is a question over the interpretation of a will or trust, especially if litigation is looming, it may be best to seek the advise of an experienced attorney with a thorough knowledge of wills and trusts.

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Law Office of Jeffrey B. Pape, P.C.
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