Part III - Estate of Taruk Joseph Ben-Ali

Now that we've recounted the gory details behind the Estate of Taruk Ben-Ali, we'll now move on to the probate implications of Taruk's last will and testament.

Wilburn (Taruk's wife, contestant and appellant), Lloyd (Hassan's other son) and Golde (Taruk's lawyer, petitioner and respondent) filed separate petitions over Taruk's estate. Wilburn and Desmond (Taruk's daughter, contestant and appellant) objected to the petitions filed by Lloyd and Golde and questioned the validity of Taruk's purported will which named Golde as the alternate executor. The primary issues in contention regarding the validity of Taruk's will were whether the will was duly executed in accordance with Probate Code section 6110 or, if not, whether there was clear and convincing evidence that Taruk intended the instrument to be his last will and testament.

After trying the case, the probate court denied Wilburn's petition for letters as well as the will contest and granted the petitions for probate of the will citing that based on the testimony of a forensic document expert, Taruk and Wilburn's signature on the will were genuine. In addition, the court found the evidence in favor of the validity of the unknown signature outweighed the evidence against its validity. The probate court also noted that these conclusions were bolstered by circumstantial evidence which includes the common understanding that wills are often executed in anticipation of taking a trip and the fact that Taruk and Wilburn were flying to Hawaii for their honeymoon the morning after the will was executed. The probate court, however, found it unnecessary to determine if there was clear and convincing evidence that Taruk intended the instrument to be his last will since evidence "far outweighs the evidence to the contrary." Wilburn et al. appealed the probate court's decision.

Tune in for more on this topic on subsequent blog.

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

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