M.C. Sungaila in San Francisco Chronicle: Botched wills can be fixed after death, state high court says


Like any written document — contracts, insurance policies, even news stories — a person’s last will can contain inadvertent errors, such as a mistaken name or a garbled number. But with the drafter unavailable to set things straight, botched wills have been set in stone in California, beyond the power of any judge to correct them. At least until now.

In a dispute over a multimilliondollar estate, the California Supreme Court unanimously overturned a 50-year-old precedent and set aside centuries of legal doctrine Monday in ruling that a will that seems clear on its face can be revised, after death, if there is strong evidence that the words didn’t reflect the drafter’s intent ...

The decision “invites more challenges, more litigation,” said Mary Christine Sungaila, attorney for Duke’s nephews. “The further away you get from the language of the will, the less certain you can be of the testator’s intent. That’s why we have a will.”

Excerpted from the San Francisco Chronicle. To read the full article, click here.

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