Seton Hall University Testamentary Instrument and Brittany Case Study

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Serapurggr07435

Business Finance

Seton Hall University

Description

Brittany Walker is an 83 year old widow with four children named Charles, Anthony, Suzanne and Walter.

In 2017, Brittany executed a simple last will and testament that revoked all her previous wills and codicils. The 2017 will was drafted by Cindy Mason, a local attorney. The will left $10,000 to each of her grandchildren. In addition, it stated, “I hereby grant my daughter, Suzanne, the right to live in my house for as long as she likes after my death, rent-free. After her death, or if she decides to leave the house, then the house shall be divided amongst my children, in equal shares.” The Will then left her entire residuary estate to “my four children, in equal shares.”

The will named Charles and Anthony as co-executors, with Walter to take over as co-executor in the event that either is unable to serve or to continue to serve.

On March 10, 2018, Brittany was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition. The doctors informed her that she was unlikely to live another six months. This sent Brittany into a tailspin of depression. During this time, Anthony (who lived in Sacramento) visited her several times a week. Suzanne also lived in Sacramento, but did not visit her mother often since her mother’s mood makes her upset. She preferred instead to speak to Brittany by phone so that she could hang up if the conversation became too unpleasant. However, she did call her mother frequently. Since the other children lived in different cities, they visited much less frequently.

During the months of March through June, Anthony had many in person conversations with his mother and frequently told her that since he has a large family, he is in need of money more than his siblings. As the summer approached, Anthony started turning to this subject with more frequency until the point that rarely a day went by that Anthony hadn’t mentioned something about needing more money than his siblings.

On July 17, Brittany took out a piece of paper and a pen and wrote the following handwritten note:

“I know that my previous will stated that Suzanne gets to live in my house after I die. But I changed my mind. Since Suzanne doesn’t visit me as much as she should, Suzanne should not have the right to live in my house after my death. Also, since my son Anthony visits me all the time and really needs money, he should get 40% of my estate and the other children should only get 20% each.”

Brittany signed her name in script and placed the paper in an envelope in her night table drawer. Later that day, Brittany told her neighbor, Yvonne, that she “changed her will” to give Anthony “more money than the rest of those ungrateful kids.”

On July 31, 2018, Walter died in a tragic car accident in Portland, Oregon, leaving wife Marcy and three children.

On August 10, 2018, Brittany died of congestive heart failure.

A few weeks later, Charles and Anthony bring a probate proceeding in the appropriate California probate court. Please assume that all of the above facts are conclusively proven and not subject to any reasonable dispute.

Please discuss and answer the following questions:

1) 1. Is the handwritten page valid as a testamentary instrument? In connection with this, is Yvonne’s testimony as to the conversation with Brittany on July 17 relevant and admissible?

2) 2. Assuming that the handwritten page is valid as a testamentary instrument, what happens to the $10,000 gifts to the grandchildren?

3) 3. Charles and Suzanne challenge the July 17 “will,” arguing that the handwritten paper, even if valid as a testamentary instrument, should be void based on incapacity and/or undue influence. Are these arguments likely to succeed?

4) 4. Who is entitled to Walter’s share of the estate?

5) 5. Who is entitled to notice that the will is being probated?

You do not need to cite specific case law for this assignment. However, you must still support your answers with good legal sources from the State of California, and the law that you use must be consistent with the materials covered in class and in the reading assignments.

You do not need IRAC-based essays to cover each of the 5 questions. Each question can be answered in 1-3 paragraphs.

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Explanation & Answer

View attached explanation and answer. Let me know if you have any questions.

Outline
I.

Introduction
i.

II.

III.

IV.

Thesis statement

Body paragraph1
i.

Supporting evidence 1

ii.

Supporting evidence 2

iii.

Supporting Evidence 3

Body paragraph 2
i.

Supporting evidence 1

ii.

Supporting evidence 2

iii.

Supporting evidence 3

Conclusion
Summary
Restatement of the thesis statement

View attached explanation and answer. Let me know if you have any questions.

Running head: BRITTANY CASE

1

Brittany case

Students Name

Institutions Affiliations

BRITTANY CASE

2
Brittany case

1. Is the handwritten page valid as a testamentary instrument? In connection with this, is
Yvonne's testimony as to the conversation with Brittany on July 17 relevant and admissible?
The handwritten page by Brittany is valid because it is written as required by the law.
California state law requires a will to be in the form of writing (Payet, n.d.). It can either be
handwritten or typed by the testator. In this case, Brittany's last will was handwritten on a piece
of paper with her name signed in script. Therefore, it was a valid will under California laws. A
will can be made by anyone (testator) who is of sound mind and aged 18 years and above.
Brittany is 83 years old and of sound mind. However, there are special laws for handwritten or
holographic wills. These handwritten wills must be in the testator's handwriting and signed.
Usually, the method does not require witnesses. Brittany's last will was handwritten and signed.
The will is valid even in the absence of a witness because it also fulfills the material provisions
of the probate code. When produced in a probate court, the beneficiaries will have to prove that
the will is in the testator's handwriting for it to be considered valid.
Yvonne's testimony regarding the conversation with Brittany on July 17 is not relevant or
admissible in this will. This was a holographic will that does not require a witness, according to
California's Probate Code Section 6111 (Gurer, 2015). Brittany wrote the will in the absence of
her neighbor, Yvonne. She only informed her of the will later that day. Therefore, Yvonne's
testimony does not change the content or substance of the will because the will is already valid
even without the testimony. Therefore, it is not relevant or admissible as long as the will is
handwritten or holographic.
2. Assuming that the handwritten page is valid as a testamentary instrument, what happens to the
$10,000 gifts to the grandchildren?

BRITTANY CASE

3

If the handwritten page is a valid testamentary instrument, the $10000 gifts to the
grandchildren in the previous will be revoked by the new will. A new will revokes the old will.
The best way to revoke an old will to make a new one, which automatically declares the old will
invalid. In this case, Brittany's old will had $10000 gifts allocated to grandchildren. However,
this will became invalid when Brittany signed the new handwritten will. In California, one can
revoke a will by destroying it through tearing, burning, canceling, obliterating with the purpose
of revoking it. Additionally, a will can be revoked by writing another will that states that the old
will is revoked according to California's Probate Code Section 6120. In this case, Brittany
included the words, "I know that my previous will stated that Suzanne gets to live in my house
after I die. But I changed my mind." This means that she was revoking the old will, and the
$10000 gifts to the grandchildren were also revoked.
3. Charles and Suzanne challenge the July 17 "will," arguing that the handwritten paper, even if
valid as a testamentary instrument, should be void based on incapacity and/or undue influence.
Are these arguments likely to succeed?
If Charles and Suzanne challenge the July 17 will on the basis that the handwritten was
invalid as a testamentary instrument because of incapacity and/or undue influence, their
arguments will succeed. This is because the new will was made due to the influence of Antony.
Brittany was incapacitated because she had a terminal illness. As a result, Antony would visit her
regularly and request an increased share of her property. Therefore, the decision to allocate more
shares to Antony was due to his influence. He used to tell his mother that he needed more money
since he has a bigger family. Therefore, Charles and Suzanne can argue that the will is invalid
because of Antony's undue influence on their mother. Additionally, the mother was incapacitated
when she wrote the will because she was terminally ill at the time. These arguments are likely to
succeed and make the new handwritten will invalid.

BRITTANY CASE

4

4. Who is entitled to Walter's share of the estate?
Walter died in a car accident before the will matured. Therefore, somebody will take up
Walter's share of the estate. The state laws determine the person who inherits the property of the
beneficiary who has died. In California, the anti-lapse statute (California Probate Code §21110)
states that the property or gifts of a deceased beneficiary will go to the children of the deceased
beneficiary if the will recipient was a blood relative to the transferor. Therefore, Walter's three
children (and maybe the spouse) are entitled to his share of the estate. The anti-lapse law in
California assumes that the deceased's share of the property does not lapse upon death. Instead, it
is assumed that the deceased would have wanted to provide for the grandchildren. Therefore, the
share allocated to the deceased beneficiary should go to Brittany's grandchildren, who are
Walter's children. The law assumes that Brittany would have wanted to provide for her
grandchildren if her children died. This anti-lapse statute grants Walter's children (and the
spouse) the right to inherit his share of the estate as indicated in the will.
5. Who is entitled to notice that the will is being probated?

The beneficiaries of the will are entitled to notice that the will is being probated. In this
case, Brittany's three remaining children (Antony, Charles, and Suzanne) and Walter's spouse
and children are all beneficiaries of the will. Therefore, they are entitled to notice that the will is
being probated. A notice of will probate is issued to the beneficiaries when the will goes to the
probate court to prove its validity. This is a routine process that is usually not onerous unless the
beneficiaries are involved in extreme disputes, or the testator was extremely wealthy. In
California, the family of the testator is allowed to share the property as they wish if the value of
the property is below $150,000 (Barton, Lukaszewski & Lau, 2015). However, all wills

BRITTANY CASE

5

involving property worth this amount or more must be considered for probate in California
courts. Considering that Brittany had residuary estates, the value of her property was higher than
$150,000, meaning that the will had to go through the probate process to validate it. When the
will is accepted for probate, all the beneficiaries have to be notified. In most cases, the probated
wills are made public. Therefore, besides the notice issued to Brittany's three remaining children
(Antony, Charles, and Suzanne) and Walter's spouse and children, they will also know about the
probate of Brittany's will through public documents made available by the probate courts.

BRITTANY CASE

6
References

Gurer, G. Y. (2015). No Paper? No Problem: Ushering in Electronic Wills through California's
Harmless Error Provision. UCDL Rev., 49, 1955.

Barton, R., Lukaszewski, L. M., & Lau, S. T. (2015). Acts of Gratitude or Disguised
Malfeasance: New Statutes May Decide for Us. Prob. & Prop., 29, 23.

Payet,

L

(n.d.)

What

Makes

a

Will

Legal

in

California?

Legal

Zoom.

https://info.legalzoom.com/article/what-makes-will-legalcalifornia#:~:text=California%20law%20requires%20a%20valid,sound%20mind%20can
%20make%20one.&text=The%20witnesses%20must%20further%20attest,to%20be%20t
he%20testator's%20will.

View attached explanation and answer. Let me know if you have any questions.

Running head: BRITTANY CASE

1

Brittany case

Students Name

Institutions Affiliations

BRITTANY CASE

2
Brittany case

1. Is the handwritten page valid as a testamentary instrument? In connection with this, is
Yvonne's testimony as to the conversation with Brittany on July 17 relevant and admissible?
The handwritten page by Brittany is valid because it is written as required by the
California probate code. California state law (California Probate Code; Division 6 Wills and
Intestate Succession; Part 1 Wills; Chapter 1 General Provisions Section 6100; Chapter 2
Execution of Wills, Sections 6110 & 6112; and, Division 7 Administration of Estates of
Decedents; Part 2 Opening Estate Administration; Chapter 3 Probate of Will; Article 2 Proof of
Will, Section 8220.) requires a will to be in the form of writing (Payet, n.d.). It can either be
handwritten or typed by the testator. In this case, Brittany's last will was handwritten on a piece
of paper with her name signed in script. Therefore, it was a valid will under California laws. A
will can be made by anyone (testator) who is of sound mind and aged 18 years and above.
Brittany is 83 years old and of sound mind. However, there are special laws for handwritten or
holographic wills. These handwritten wills must be in the testator's handwriting and signed.
Usually, the method does not require witnesses. Brittany's last will was handwritten and signed.
The will is valid even in the absence of a witness because it also fulfills the material provisions
of the probate code. When produced in a probate court, the beneficiaries will have to prove that
the will is in the...


Anonymous
Just what I was looking for! Super helpful.

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