I love pie, and it's probably my favorite type of dessert. I have fond childhood memories of my Grandmother making fantastic butterscotch meringue pies whenever we would travel to her house back when I grew up in Oklahoma. Every Fall I look forward to eating pecan pie, and I can cook a pretty good one using a recipe and method that I read about in Southern Living magazine many years ago. In my opinion, cakes, cookies and other desserts pale in comparison to a big slice of pie accompanied by a big scoop of Blue Bell ice cream (or Arkansas-based Yarnell's).
That said, I find that when talking to clients it is often helpful to explain estate, trust, probate and inheritance litigation and disputes in terms of "pie." For example, sometimes the question is "who gets a piece of the pie?" There could be a conflict about who the beneficiaries are in a will or trust. Or, if there was not a will or trust a Court could need to determine who the deceased's heirs are for purposes of intestate succession. If a will or trust sought to exclude someone and they challenge it, the enforcement or non-enforcement of that term could dictate whether or not they get a piece of the pie at all.
Sometimes the issue revolves around "how big a slice does everyone get?" For example, a will or trust often leaves different types or percentages of property to different people or entities. In an intestate estate where the deceased did not leave a will or trust (or perhaps those documents were found to be invalid), one's status as a surviving spouse, surviving child, surviving parent, surviving sibling, surviving grandchild, etc. will determine the size and extent of one's piece of the pie.
Other times the question involves "what is even in the pie?" What I mean by that is that property formally conveyed to a trust should pass through the trust, but property not conveyed to that trust will pass outside the trust (typically through the estate). Likewise, whether or not an estate is formally opened or a trust even exists, some property can automatically pass by beneficiary designations (IRA's, life insurance, etc.) or operation of law (transfer on death accounts, joint tenants with right of survivorship accounts, etc.) instead of passing to or through a trust, estate, etc.
Finally, occasionally the concern focuses upon "whether anyone ate some (or all) of the pie before it got sliced up?" In other words, if there was a misappropriation of monies or assets the dispute may necessarily be primarily concerned with (1) attempting to investigate, locate and recover the missing property, and (2) holding whomever took it civilly or criminally responsible, if appropriate.
Matt House can be contacted by telephone at 501-372-6555, by e-mail at email@example.com, by facsimile at 501-372-6333, or by regular mail at James, House & Downing, P.A., Post Office Box 3585, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203.