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After Legendary Oscar-winning actor Marlon Brando died, his longtime housekeeper, Angela Borlaza, claimed that he had promised to give her a home she claimed he had purchased for her as compensation for her work.  She also claimed that he promised her that he would deed it to her prior to his death.  However, that was never done.

Even though Brando created a valid last will and testament in which he could have given the home to her, no such gift was included.  She later sued to enforce her claim to the home.

A Promise Is A Promise…
While a promise is a promise, it can be easily broken.  In this case, either Brando never promised Borlaza anything, or he promised to give her the home but never got around to putting it in his will or trust.  Borlaza claimed the latter and sued his estate for $627,000, plus $2,000,000 in punitive damages.

Since the alleged promise was oral, the court was limited to what was stated in Brando’s will on the assumption that it included all of his wishes.  Borlaza eventually settled the matter for $125,000, but she was lucky to get even that.

Oral promises to someone about what they’ll inherit when you die generally fail without some proof that the promise was valid, such as someone else being part of the conversation in which the promise was made.  Short of that, a court can – and reasonably must – rely upon the documents presented to it when probating an estate.

Put It in Writing
Make sure that your loved ones receive everything you promised them by putting your wishes in writing through a last will and testament, a trust, or another estate planning tool.  Don’t rest on your laurels.  It is imperative to update your estate plan documents when any significant or life changing events occur such as:

  • a new oral promise you made to someone
  • adoption
  • birth of another child
  • circumstances change (change in health, wealth, or state of residence)
  • income changes
  • marriage
  • divorce
  • re-marriage

Need help putting your wishes in writing?  You’re in the right place.  Contact our office today and let us help you decide what type of estate plan might work best for your situation.  It’s easier than you think and will give you the peace of mind that your loved ones aren’t forgotten.