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Loeb & Loeb LLP Wins Court of Appeal Victory In Hugh O’Brian Trust Litigation

Loeb litigators Anita P. Wu and Gabrielle A. Vidal scored an important victory in the California Court of Appeal this week on behalf of the estate of Hugh O’Brian, a beloved American actor and humanitarian who died in September 2016.  O’Brian left his estate to his wife Virginia, other named family members and friends, and the Motion Picture and Television Fund – and he allocated the residue of his estate to go to his charitable foundation upon his wife’s death.

In its August 3, 2020 opinion in Rallo et al. v. O’Brian (certified for partial publication), the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of lawsuits that were filed by individuals who claimed to be O’Brian’s biological heirs and who sought to inherit from his estate as “omitted children” under Probate Code Section 21622.  The Court of Appeal held that the claimants failed to allege sufficient facts to entitle them to any relief, and that it was impossible for them to do so, given the express language in O’Brian’s trust intentionally disinheriting anyone who might claim to be his heir after his death.

The Court of Appeal’s important ruling confirms a testator’s right to choose how his property should be disposed of upon his death, including to disinherit any unknown persons who might claim to be an heir after his death, and makes clear that such an intention must be given effect.