M.C. Sungaila in Daily Journal: State High Court Changes Rules That Affect Wills


Where there's a will, there's a new way for potential beneficiaries to contest it, the state Supreme Court ruled on Monday.

The upshot: charities hoping for a windfall from a millionaire who bungled his self-drafted last will and testament will get a fresh chance to cash in.

The high court, concerned about those who make wills without lawyers, changed longstanding rules on how probate judges should handle evidence that the drafter of an otherwise unambiguous will was unclear in expressing his intent.

The unanimous court reversed the 2nd District Court of Appeal and, in allowing extrinsic evidence of intent to reform the will in question, altered probate guidelines dating from 1965. Estate of Duke, 2015 DJDAR 8526.

"This is an endorsement of a sea change in California probate law that goes outside the plain language of a will," said one of the lawyers who argued the case, Mary-Christine Sungaila of Haynes and Boone LLP.

"It will open a lot of challenges to wills not possible before," she added.

Excerpted from the Daily Journal. To read the full article, click here (subscription required).

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