Continuing our blog on Straley v. Gamble; Steven Straley (decedent's son; plaintiff and appellant) appealed the trial court's ruling stating that Steven's petition was time-barred by Probate Code section 16061.7 and by the equitable doctrine of laches. During the appeals process, the California Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's ruling declaring that the trial court erred in finding that Steven's petition was time-barred by the statute of limitations and the doctrine of laches. The court of appeal noted that the time frame in which to bring an action to contest a trust is stated in section 16061.8 which provides that: "No person upon whom the notification by the trustee is served pursuant to this chapter …may bring an action to contest the trust more than 120 days from the date the notification by the trustee is served upon him." In this case, the trustee served the notification to Steven Straley on April 21, 2011. Thus, Steven had until August 24, 2011, to "bring an action" to contest the trust. Because Steven filed his petition on August 18, 2011, the petition was timely filed. In other words, Steven brought an action to contest the trust within the time constraints set forth in section 16061.8. In light of the procedure set above, Steven was not required to serve his petition at the time it was filed. Rather, he was required to serve his petition after the clerk set the hearing date, and at least 30 days before that hearing date.
The Court of Appeal has also determined that the petition was not barred by the doctrine of laches since there was no indication that the trustee was prejudiced by any sort of delay in the timely filing and subsequent service of the petition. Accordingly, the trial court's order is reversed and costs on appeal were awarded to Steven Straley.
*This blog entry was not written by an Attorney and should not be construed as professional legal advice.