Part II: You Snooze, You Lose: Consequences of Delaying Probate

In McMackin v. Ehrheart (194 Cal. App. 4th 128, 122 Cal.), the Court was asked to determine whether a Marvin claim (a Marvin agreement is an express or implied contract between unmarried partners that was declared enforceable in Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660.) based on a decedent's promise to leave her unmarried cohabitant a life estate in real property is governed by the one-year statute of limitations of Code of Civil Procedure section 366.3, and, if so, whether the doctrine of equitable estoppel can be applied to preclude assertion of section 366.3's statute of limitations. The trial court has determined that in this case, the one-year limitation was inapplicable because McMackin was "not making a 'claim'" as defined by Probate Code section 9000, subdivision (a), which governs creditor's claims and defines a "claim" as a "demand for payment." The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling, although it did conclude that McMackin was making a claim for distribution within the meaning of section 366.3 as McMackin's claim arises from McGinness's promise to a distribution of a life estate in the home. The Court of Appeals concluded that the decedent's daughters, through their own fault, led McMackin to believe that they would never challenge his right to live in the home for life, and, therefore, caused him to refrain from filing a suit during the one-year limitations period. Accordingly, the doctrine of equitable estoppel could overcome the statute of limitations, and the promise of a life estate would be enforced in McMackin's favor.

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

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