§ CAPACITY § UNDUE INFLUENCE § FRAUD § DURESS § MISTAKE § REVOCATION §
Overview - Respondent attorneys represented the son of appellant client's mother in an action involving sexual molestation of the son. The settlement reached in that case designated the beneficiary of the award, in case of death, as the son's estate. The father claimed a 50 percent share of the settlement after the son's death. The superior court denied appellant's malpractice cause of action against respondents. The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that the demurrer was properly sustained because appellant could not prove damages from any alleged negligence. Where a minor could not disinherit a parent or assign a future interest to just one parent, the settlement could not have excluded the father as a beneficiary. Further, the court found that the son could not have designated appellant as sole beneficiary in the annuity contract, under Cal. Ins. Code § 10112.
Andersen v. Hunt (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 722
Overview - After suffering a stroke, the decedent amended his trust to leave a 60 percent portion of his estate to defendant, who was the decedent's long-term romantic partner. Plaintiffs were the children of the decedent. While the original trust document was complex, the trust amendments were not. None of the contested amendments did more than provide the percentages of the trust estate the decedent wished each beneficiary to receive. In view of the trust amendments' simplicity and testamentary nature, the court concluded that they were indistinguishable from a will or codicil and, thus, the decedent's capacity to execute the amendments should have been evaluated pursuant to the standard of testamentary capacity set out in Prob. Code, § 6100.5. The trial court erred in evaluating the decedent's capacity to execute the trust amendments by the standard of contractual capacity set out in Prob. Code, §§ 810 to 812.
Goodman v. Zimmerman (1994) 25 Cal.App.4th 1667
Overview - Plaintiff beneficiary brought an action against defendant, executor and others, that challenged a will on several grounds including lack of testamentary capacity and defendants filed a cross-complaint. The trial court found upheld the will in favor of defendants. The court affirmed the judgment of the lower court because the language and legislative history of Cal. Prob. Code § 6100.5 demonstrated that the statute was intended to closely adhere to the common law decisions as pertained to testamentary capacity. The test was to determine whether a person suffered from delusions and hallucinations which resulted in the person dividing property in a way, except for the delusions and hallucinations, he or she would not have done. The court held that the trial court's finding that the testator was not delusional was supported by an abundance of competent evidence, including evidence that plaintiff was given a smaller share because he mistreated his sisters.
Conserv. of Davidson (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 1035
Overview - The decedent originally had a will in favor of appellant's wife, who was the decedent's cousin. Later, however, she revoked that will and executed a revocable living trust. While the instrument had a provision for appellant, it essentially left the bulk of her estate to respondent. Respondent had been a friend of the decedent for a number of years, and during her declining health, respondent cared for the decedent. Appellant sought to have the gift to respondent invalidated on the ground that he was a care custodian barred from benefitting from the donative transfer. The trial court found the gift valid under Cal. Prob. Code §§ 21350, 21351. The court affirmed on appeal. Cal. Prob. Code § 21350 barred donative transfers to individuals who assumed the role of care custodian to a dependent adult incidental to a professional or occupational provision of health or social services. In this case, respondent rendered his services based on a personal relationship with the decedent. The kinds of errands, chores, and household tasks that respondent performed for the decedent did not amount to custodial care, and thus he was not barred from receiving the gift under the statute.