The Perils of Promises…Marlon Brando’s Story

Marlon Brando, legendary Oscar winning actor, left most of his estate to his producer and some other associates. His estate was worth about $26 million at the time. Brando had created a last will and testament but he did not include his housekeeper, Angela Borlaza. She had been with him for years and alleged that Brando promised her a home when he died. Angela sued the estate for that promised home.

A Promise Is A Promise…

A promise is a promise but not all promises can be held up legally. An oral promise is not treated the same as a written promise in court. In the case of Brando and Angela Borlaza, the promise was either never made or if made never documented. It was not included in his will or a written contract. In spite of that fact, Borlaza still sued the estate for $627,000 for her so called promised home.

Because the alleged promise was oral and not written, the court did not go the way she wished. Courts in regards to estate planning usually only look at written evidence. Brando’s will was assumed to have been completed and included all of his wishes. Lucky for Angela Borlaza the case was settled and she received $125,000.

Oral promises are normally not legally binding and cause confusion and uncertainty with the estate planning documents. It is the job of the courts to rely on the legal written documents when they probate and estate. Giving promises of inheritance to family and friends may be saving your time and money, it really isn’t helping anyone. But there is a way to make those promises legally valid and allows you to keep them to those you love.

Put It in Writing – The Key to Making Promises Work

To be sure that your loved one received everything that you have promised them, those promises need to be put into writing. You need to create a last will and testament, a trust of some other estate planning tool. Don’t let it go another day without being at the top of your priority list. You also need to update your estate planning documents when you have a significant or life changing event happen. Some examples are a new oral promise you made to someone, an adoption, a birth, marriage, divorce, or a remarriage. Changes in health, wealth or residence need to be updated to your documents.

Our office is ready and eager to help you get those promises in writing. We can help you set up your estate plan to carry out your wishes. Allow us to find the best estate plan for your situation, one that benefits you and your beneficiaries. It is easier than you think to have an estate plan ready for the future giving you the peace of mind that your last wishes are fulfilled.


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