January 26, 2020, the tragic news of a fatal helicopter crash involving NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna shocked the world. The terrible accident left Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother Vanessa to grieve their losses along with the couple’s three other daughters. The highly successful basketball player had a thoughtfully-prepared estate plan in place at the time of his death. However, the plan had not been updated to include provisions for his youngest daughter, nine-month-old Capri. This oversight has led the family back to the probate court. Here is more on why Kobe Bryant’s trustee is asking for a modification of the family trust:
The Bryant family trust was initially drafted in 2003, and now includes Vanessa Bryant, Natalia Bryant, 17, and Bianka Bryant, 3. The most recent modification to the trust was in 2017 when Bianka was born. When Kobe Bryant died, the trust was divided into two separate trusts for tax purposes.
In March, the co-trustees filed a petition to modify the trust to amend it to add Capri as a beneficiary. Without the amendment, the trust beneficiaries will remain the same. In California, the court cannot modify a trust unless the modification is consistent with the material purpose of the trust or if the modification outweighs the interest in accomplishing the material purpose of the trust.
In this case, the co-trustees, are asking that the trust be modified to add Capri on the basis that the material purpose of the trust is to provide for Kobe’s wife and children and to protect the trust assets so they will be there for the children upon Vanessa’s death. The court will permit the amendment if it determines that adding Capri is consistent with the trust’s material purpose or that doing so outweighs the interest in accomplishing that purpose.
As this situation demonstrates, even carefully crafted trusts need to be updated. In this instance, the inclusion of a provision for later-born children or a timely review of the trust document could have remedied the situation. If you have a trust or other estate planning documents, it is a good practice to review them with your estate planning attorney every few years, or near when a significant life event occurs.