Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Son of Banking Fortune Heir

The Fourth District Court of Appeals has ruled that the eldest son, Thomas Sefton Jr., of a wealthy Sand Diego banker is entitled to inherit part of his grandfather's estate despite the wishes of his father, Thomas Sefton Sr.

Joseph W. Sefton Jr. became the VP of the bank after his father's death in 1908, later becoming president in 1935. He executed a will that provided that a trust be established to provide a lifetime of income to his son Thomas Sr. and that three fourths of the remainder would go to his son's then "living issue as my said son shall by his Last Will and Testament appoint." The will also named his three grandchildren including Thomas Jr. However, when Thomas Sr. died in 2006, he completely omitted Thomas Jr. from receiving any inheritance and gave the remainder of Joseph's trust to the other siblings. Thomas Jr. petitioned the Sand Diego court for a share of the estate contending that he was entitled to it under Estate of Sloan (1935) 7 Cal.App.2d 319.

The Superior Court ruled against him citing that Thomas Sr. was given exclusive power of appointment under his father's will. Therefore, he was entitled to disinherit any one of his own children. The Appellate Court reversed this decision. They found that the statute the superior court judge relied on, Probate Code Sec. 652, does not apply because at the time the will was written and the testator died, that statute had not been in effect.

Thomas Jr. will now be entitled to a 'substantial' share of the estate, however not an equal share that he petitioned for. It will be up to the trial judge to determine what will constitute a substantial share.

Please consult with a professional Estate Administration Attorney if you suspect that you have been wrongfully left out of an inheritance.

*This blog entry was not written by an Attorney and should not be constituted as professional legal advice.

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