Gloria, a widow, stated to Tom & Larry that a typewritten paper was her will. Shethen signed the paper in the presence of Tom and Larry, who witnessed Gloria’ssigning, and signed the will as witnesses. The will contained the following provisions:1.
$10,000 to my friend, Tom.2. My residence to my only daughter, Dora, provided she survives me by thirty days.3. All my Mega Corp stock to my friend, Max, requesting that he distribute it as indicated in a letter to be found with this will.4. The residue of my estate to my only son, Seth.Subsequently, Gloria and Dora were involved in an automobile collision.
Dora was killed instantly, and Gloria died one day later in the hospital. Gloria’s will is found in her safe deposit box together with a typewritten, signed, but unwitnessed letter requesting Max to distribute the Mega Corp stock to Ben, a needy cousin whom Gloria had assisted financially in the past.Max truthfully testifies that the letter was prepared after the will was executed and that he orally agreed with Gloria to distribute the stock as requested in the letter. Dora is survived by her husband, Hank, and her daughter, Gail.
In addition to Hank and Gail, Tom, Max, Ben and Seth all survived Gloria. Gloria’s net estate consists of her residence, Mega Corp stock, and $100,000 in cash. What portion of Gloria’s estate, if any, should be distributed to each of Tom, Hank, Gail, Max, Ben and Seth? Discuss.Assume that the applicable statutory law is the same as that of California.Issue:Whether or not the provisions in the will as well as the letter purportedly attached to the same are valid and should be given effect.Rule:The issue in the case at bar is covered by the law on probate and the law on wills and trusts which provides for the formalities as well as the requirements that must be complied with for a will to be considered as validly executed. It is as a rule required that the person making a will must have legal capacity to make a will, which means that he or she must be of sound mind, memory or understanding and must be at least at in the age of majority. The testator is considered to be of sound mind if he or she understands the general nature of his act, the extent of the estate involved and the will looks reasonable (California, 2001).
Furthermore, the law requires that the testator must have a genuine intention to make the will. The testator’s intention may be presumed if at the time the will was executed he or she has the legal capacity to accomplish the same. With regards to the formalities of the will, the same must be written by hand, typed or printed, signed by the testator and two witnesses in the presence of one another. Both witnesses must be present at the same time and should not benefit under the terms of the will.
All of these requirements and formalities must be present in order that a written instrument which provides for the disposition of the properties of a person upon death may be considered as a valid will.Analysis:At this point, it is now proper to make an examination of both the relevant facts of the case vis a vis the applicable rule stated above. The relevance of each of the dispositions in the will mentioned in the facts will now be inspected in the light of the abovementioned rules.Based on the facts and the law involved in the case at bar, the first provision in the will allocating $10,000 to Tom must be declared invalid since Tom is a witness to the will, hence, must not be allowed to benefit from the terms of the same.The second provision of the will must also be considered as inoperative since the facts clearly showed that Dora did not survive Gloria by thirty days as required in the will for the provision to operate. In fact, Gloria was able to survive Dora by one day.Similarly, the third provision of the will is also not in order since the signed letter referred to in the will must also comply with the formalities prescribed by law for it to be considered valid. It is a codicil or and appendage to the will which, must comply with the requirements of the law and the formalities of a will to be considered as valid.
The letter should be considered as part of the will since it is in a nature of a mortis causa disposition of part of Gloria’s property. It must contain the signature of witnesses if it is to be considered as valid.It appears then that the only valid provision of the will is the fourth stipulation one which disposes of the residue of Gloria’s property to her son Seth.Based on the foregoing the $10,000, the residence, the Mega Corp. stock and the $100,000 in cash forms part of the whole estate of Gloria.
Since the provisions in the will disposing of the first three properties are invalid, they shall form part of the “residue” which must all go to Seth as provided for in the will. Therefore, only Seth is entitled to the whole of the estate of Gloria. Tom, Hank, Gail, Max, Ben gets nothing.
Conclusion:The law on wills and trust as well as the law on probate applies in the case at bar. For a will to be valid, the same must comply with the requirements of the law as well as the needed formalities. Additionally, the conditions of the will must also be complied with to give effect to the disposition contained thereat. When a provision of a will disposing off a property is declared invalid, the property forms part of the portion of the estate not disposed of with particularity. It reverts back to the “residue” portion of the estate.
In the case at bar, since the first three dispositions made in the will are either invalid or inoperative, the properties involved in these provisions shall form part of the residue of the estate. Since under the will, the residue of the estate of Gloria shall belong to Seth, only Seth should be entitled to the same. In effect, the whole of Gloria’s estate should pass on to Seth in testate succession.Reference:California, L. C. o. (2001). Official California Legislative Information [Electronic Version].
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