Schwartz & Schwartz | California Lawyers in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Palm Desert

Notable Recent Case Law

Andersen v. Hunt, 196 Cal. App. 4th 722 (2011):
The level of capacity required to execute a relatively simple trust document necessarily is the same as that required to execute a will or codicil, rather than the "different, higher standard of mental functioning" required to execute a complex trust. Thus, when determining whether to invalidate a less complex trust instrument due to a trustor's alleged lack of capacity, courts should evaluate the trustor's capacity under the less stringent rules of testamentary capacity.

King v. Johnston, 178 Cal. App. 4th 1488 (2009):
A trust beneficiary has independent standing to sue third parties who participated in a breach of trust with the former trustee -- notwithstanding the subsequent appointment of a successor trustee. (In other words, standing to bring an action against such third parties is not exclusively limited to the successor trustee.)

Gdowski v. Gdowski, 175 Cal. App. 4th 128 (2009):
A protective order under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (i.e., an elder abuse restraining order) may issue on the basis of evidence of past abuse, only, without any particularized showing that the wrongful acts will be continued or repeated. (Moreover, the past abuse need only be demonstrated by a preponderance of evidence, rather than by clear and convincing evidence.)

Estate of Bennett, 163 Cal. App. 4th 1303 (2008):
Absent a stipulation, parties in contested probate matters are entitled to an evidentiary hearing (trial) on the merits; refusal to allow such a hearing consitutes reversible error.

In re Estate of Odian
, 145 Cal. App. 4th 152 (2006):
Paid in-home caregiver provided social services (cooking, cleaning, driving, shopping) to decedent, and therefore was a care custodian presumptively disqualified from benefiting from decedent's trust or will. (Probate Code § 21350(a)(6)).

Bernard v. Foley, 39 Cal.4th 794 (2006):
The personal friends of a decedent who had rendered extensive services (including health services) to her during the last few months of her life were deemed "care custodians," and therefore were presumptively disqualified (Probate Code § 21350, et seq.) from benefiting from decedent's amended trust executed three days before her death.

Tunstall v. Wells, 144 Cal.App.4th 554 (2006):
A testamentary trust's "no contest clause" providing that one beneficiary's contest voided other non-contesting beneficiaries' bequests (along with the contestant's bequest) did not violate public policy.

In re Conservatorship of Hume, 140 Cal. App. 4th 1385 (2006):
The burden of proof for objections to inventories and accountings in conservatorship proceedings is on the party objecting to appraisal, not on the conservator.

In re Estate of Rossi,138 Cal. App. 4th 1325 (2006):
An applicant's failure to attach his/her proposed pleading to a Probate Code § 21320 application (for determination that a proposed action would not violate a given no contest clause) is not fatal to court's jurisdiction.

Zwirn v. Schweizer, 134 Cal. App. 4th 1153 (2005):
A purported "creditor's claim" by the nephew of a decedent's late husband that decedent and her husband told him and others that when both died, he would receive 50 percent of their assets (i.e., alleging decedent breached an oral contract with her husband to that effect by revising her estate plan after his death to favor her own blood relatives) constituted a will contest within meaning of no-contest clause of decedent's will.

Terry v. Conlan, 131 Cal. App. 4th 1445 (2005):
The award of fees to a trustee's attorney (payable from trust proceeds) was an abuse of discretion where trustee had not remained neutral in litigation concerning management of trust, but rather had consistently favored her own interests and those of some beneficiaries over those of other beneficiaries.

David v. Hermann, 129 Cal. App. 4th 672 (2005):
An older sister successfully petitioned for invalidation of her mother's trust (and amendment) based on a younger sister's acts of fraud and undue influence.

Osornio v. Weingarten, 124 Cal. App. 4th 304 (2004):
An estate planning attorney owed a duty of care to a non-client prospective will beneficiary, who was testator's care custodian, to advise and assist testator concerning approaches for overcoming the statutory presumptive disqualification of care custodians as donees (California Probate Code § 21350 et seq.); the attorney therefore may be held liable by a non-client for negligence in failing to advise testator of statutory consequences and in failing to refer testator to independent counsel for advice and preparation of certificate of independent review.

Covenant Care, Inc. v. Superior Court, 32 Cal. 4th 771 (2004):
Procedural prerequisites to seeking punitive damages in an action for damages arising out of professional negligence of a health care provider do not apply to punitive damage claim alleging elder abuse under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act.

Delaney v. Baker, 20 Cal.4th 23 (1999):
A health care provider who engages in reckless neglect of an elder adult is subject to heightened remedies available under California's Elder Abuse Act (EADACPA), and cannot invoke the typical restrictions limiting remedies against health care providers.