Legal Memorandum: Invalidating an Amendment to a Trust or Will

Issue: What California decisions, in addition to David v. Hermann, 129 Cal. App. 4th 672, 28 Cal. Rptr. 3d 622 (2005), set aside or invalidate an amendment to a trust or will (or the trust or will itself) on the basis of fraud?

Area of Law: Estate Planning & Probate
Keywords: Invalidating a will; Fraud; Amendment
Jurisdiction: California
Cited Cases: 131 Cal. App. 3d 471; 43 P.3d 300; 129 Cal. App. 4; 288 P.2d 578; 214 P. 231; 163 P. 1010; 160 Cal. 467; 117 P. 539; 136 Cal. App. 2d 239
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2006

Besides David v. Hermann, there are a few other relevant California cases, including one of the cases relied on by the David court.  In In re Newhall’s Estate, 190 Cal. 709, 214 P. 231 (1923), the court held that sufficient evidence of fraud existed where the facts showed that the two younger sisters—the chief beneficiaries under their mother’s will—had the opportunity to influence their mother, and made false derogatory and defamatory statements regarding their older sisters. 

The Newhall court observed that because the younger sisters lived with their mother, and Grace—the will contestant and one of the older sisters—did not, the younger sisters had ample opportunity to discredit Grace in their mother’s eyes.  Id. at 720, 214 P. at 235.  In addition, there was intense bitterness and hostility between the younger sisters and Grace, and there was direct evidence that the younger sisters had made disparaging and false statements about Grace to their mother.  This “must, undoubtedly, have had an influence in creating and keeping alive the bitterness of the mother against the” older sister, the court observed.  Id. 

The mother in Newhall had been told, and believed, that Grace was the instigator of guardianship proceedings involving the mother.  Id. at 720, 214 P. at 236.  Moreover, the younger sisters told their mother that Grace was “immoral,” “no good,” and “not decent.”  “It is inconceivable,” the court noted, that these statements “did not adversely affect the feelings of the mother toward her daughter.”  Id.  The […]

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