Tag Archives: Commonwealth of Virginia

The Fictional Fight Over Han Solo’s Estate

Who would be the beneficiary of the estate of Han Solo?  Star Wars is obviously a fictional universe, and there is no indication in Episode 7 (or any other canon material that I’m aware of) that speaks to whether Han Solo had a will or not. Nevertheless, it’s both fun and educational to analyze the answer, because if the same laws in effect in Virginia were in effect in the Star Wars universe, Han Solo’s death would likely have set off a wave of litigation among numerous characters in a galaxy far, far away. First, let’s consider what assets Han …

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“No Contest” Clauses Part 3: The Rafalko Dissenting Opinions

This is the third in a three-part series of blog posts on “no contest” clauses. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the key points in the dissenting opinions in the recent Virginia Supreme Court ruling in the Rafalko case (777 S.E.2d 870) relating to no contest clauses. In Rafalko, the Virginia Supreme Court confronted the issue of whether certain actions violated a trust’s no contest clause. Part two of this series discussed the main takeaways from the majority opinion: (1) mere discourse relating to a challenge of a trust containing a no contest clause does not trigger the no …

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“No Contest” Clauses Pt. 2: The Rafalko Majority Opinion

This is the second in a three-part series of blog posts on “no contest” clauses. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the key points in the recent Virginia Supreme Court ruling (777 S.E.2d 870) in the Rafalko case relating to no contest clauses. In part three, I’ll discuss some of the key points in the dissenting opinions. In Rafalko, the Virginia Supreme Court confronted the issue of whether certain actions violated a trust’s no contest clause. The facts and procedural history of the case are lengthy and detailed, so in my discussion below I’ve only highlighted some of the …

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Yes, Virginia, There Is A “No Contest” Clause

This is the first in a three-part series of blog posts on “no contest” clauses, inspired by a recent Virginia Supreme Court ruling. In this post, I’ll briefly explain what a no contest clause is, and provide a general overview of the law relating to no contest clauses. In the second part, I’ll discuss some of the key legal holdings of the recent Virginia Supreme Court ruling, and in the third part, I’ll examine some of the legal issues raised in the two dissenting opinions. First: what is a no contest clause? A no contest clause (also referred to as …

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Lost Wills: What To Do When The Original Can’t Be Found

Virginia law requires that an original will be probated (as opposed to a copy). Occasionally, this poses a problem as no one can locate the original will. In those instances, Virginia law provides that a proponent of a non-original will may petition the circuit court to order that a copy of the will be admitted to probate. As part of that petition, the petitioner will need to name as “necessary parties” to the petition any people who stand to receive a bequest under the will, as well as any people who would stand to inherit a portion of the decedent’s …

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Virginia Supreme Court Issues New Ruling Regarding Missing Wills

The Virginia Supreme Court recently issued a ruling relating to missing wills and the legal standard courts must apply when an original will cannot be found and therefore an executor seeks to probate a copy of the will. While the case does not necessarily make new law, it does clarify that the proponent of the non-original will is not required to prove why the original will was lost. First, some background: under Virginia law, a party seeking to probate a will must probate the original will, and not a photocopy. In the vast majority of instances, this does not pose …

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Till Death Do Us Part. . . or at Least Until the Divorce Becomes Final

When important changes occur in life, it is advisable to reevaluate your estate planning to ensure it continues to meet the goals and objectives you have for your estate and your beneficiaries – and going through a divorce is no exception. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the final decree of divorce automatically impacts certain limited aspects of estate planning but not all – and a separation – even a lengthy separation for many years – does not. Therefore it is important to note what relief is provided automatically by statute and when you must act to change your estate documents …

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Daubert In Virginia State Court: Where Do Things Stand Now?

The past few months have seen a flurry of developments as to the extent to which Daubert and its progeny are authoritative in Virginia state court proceedings. First, as I discussed in a blog post on May 17, 2015: The Virginia Supreme Court recently issued its ruling in Hyundai Motor Company v. Duncan, 766 S.E.2d 893 (2015) which cited the United States Supreme Court case of General Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136 (1997). General Elec. Co. is significant because it interpreted Daubert and expanded on its holding. The Virginia Supreme Court in turn justified its citation of General …

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New Ruling Has Implications for Expert Witnesses in Estate Litigation Matters

Editor’s Note: this blog post has since been superseded by new events. To see a discussion of the new events, please click here.   The other month, the Virginia Supreme Court issued an opinion that could have potentially significant implications for the use of expert witnesses in estate litigation matters. The ruling appears to bring Virginia law closer to the federal Daubert standard for the admissibility of expert witness testimony. First some background: In 1993, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993) that the then-current test for the admissibility of expert …

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New Law Enables Possible Recovery Of Attorney’s Fees On Grounds Of Undue Influence

Last year, the Virginia General Assembly adopted a new law that went into effect on July 1, 2014.  Virginia Code Section 8.01-221.2. provides as follows: “In any civil action to rescind a deed, contract, or other instrument, the court may award to the plaintiff reasonable attorney fees and costs associated with bringing such action where the court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the deed, contract, or other instrument was obtained by fraud or undue influence on the part of the defendant.” In other words, the court has the option (note the use of the word “may”, as opposed …

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