Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, October 23, 2015

Unambiguous Will May Be Reformed Because Of Mistake

GavelThe testator’s holographic will gave his estate to his spouse and if he and his spouse died at the same time, to certain charities but there was no provision in the case his spouse predeceased him. Spouse predeceased testator and testator never wrote a new will. After the testator’s death, the charities petitioned for probate and the decedent’s heirs filed a counter petition. The trial court held that the testator’s estate passed by intestacy and the intermediate appellate court affirmed. In In re Estate of Duke, the California Supreme Court reversed holding that an unambiguous will may be reformed if there is clear and convincing evidence of a mistake in expressing the testator’s intent at the time the will was drafted and establishing the testator’s specific intent at that time.

Special thanks to William LaPiana (Professor of Law, New York Law School) for bringing this case to my attention.


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