Part III - Testator's Intent Overrides Procedural Errors in a Will

On part III of our blog regarding the estate of Stoker, we will discuss additional claims made by appellants, Destiny Gularte (petitioner, appellant and the decedent's ex-girlfriend) et al, the responses made by Danine Pradia (objectors and respondents) et al, and the decision made by the Court of Appeals. As discussed previously, Destiny Gularte et al appealed the trial court's ruling. They made the following additional points:

  1. Appellants claim that section 6110, subdivision (c)(2) was effective January 1, 2009, and therefore it cannot be applied retroactively to a will drafted in 2005.
    • Danine and the other respondents claim that the retroactive application of the provision is consistent with the strong policy of the law to prevent wills from becoming invalid due to technical deficiencies. The Court of Appeals agreed with the respondents and further added that the appellants did not lose their right to inherit property because of the 2009 legislative amendments but rather due to the 2005 revocation of the 1997 will and trust. Additionally, the case went to trial in 2009, therefore the courts must use the most current procedure and evidentiary standard in conducting the trial.
  2. Appellants claim that there is no evidence to show that the 2005 document was intended to be decedent's will since it does not contain testamentary language such as the word will nor does it make reference to death.
    • The Court of Appeals disagreed stating that no particular words are necessary to show a testamentary intent. Additionally, even if the will was vague, the trial court properly admitted extrinsic evidence that confirmed Steven Stoker's (decedent) testamentary intent.
  3. The appellants further suggested that the record does not support a finding that decedent had any intent to revoke or that he had ever executed any revocation of the 1997 will and trust.
    • The Court of Appeals disagreed stating that a will may be revoked where the testator executes a subsequent inconsistent will or where he or she burns or destroys the will. The contents of the 2005 will expressly revoked the 1997 trust. Furthermore, there are witnesses who have stated that they saw Steven burn the original copy of the 1997 will.

Based on the above, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. Costs on appeal were awarded in favor of Danine Pradia et al.

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

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