Brittany Walker is an 83 year old widow with four children named Charles, Anthony, Suzanne and Walter.
In 2017, Brittany executed a simple last will and testament that revoked all her previous wills and codicils. The 2017 will was drafted by Cindy Mason, a local attorney. The will left $10,000 to each of her grandchildren. In addition, it stated, “I hereby grant my daughter, Suzanne, the right to live in my house for as long as she likes after my death, rent-free. After her death, or if she decides to leave the house, then the house shall be divided amongst my children, in equal shares.” The Will then left her entire residuary estate to “my four children, in equal shares.”
The will named Charles and Anthony as co-executors, with Walter to take over as co-executor in the event that either is unable to serve or to continue to serve.
On March 10, 2018, Brittany was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition. The doctors informed her that she was unlikely to live another six months. This sent Brittany into a tailspin of depression. During this time, Anthony (who lived in Sacramento) visited her several times a week. Suzanne also lived in Sacramento, but did not visit her mother often since her mother’s mood makes her upset. She preferred instead to speak to Brittany by phone so that she could hang up if the conversation became too unpleasant. However, she did call her mother frequently. Since the other children lived in different cities, they visited much less frequently.
During the months of March through June, Anthony had many in person conversations with his mother and frequently told her that since he has a large family, he is in need of money more than his siblings. As the summer approached, Anthony started turning to this subject with more frequency until the point that rarely a day went by that Anthony hadn’t mentioned something about needing more money than his siblings.
On July 17, Brittany took out a piece of paper and a pen and wrote the following handwritten note:
“I know that my previous will stated that Suzanne gets to live in my house after I die. But I changed my mind. Since Suzanne doesn’t visit me as much as she should, Suzanne should not have the right to live in my house after my death. Also, since my son Anthony visits me all the time and really needs money, he should get 40% of my estate and the other children should only get 20% each.”
Brittany signed her name in script and placed the paper in an envelope in her night table drawer. Later that day, Brittany told her neighbor, Yvonne, that she “changed her will” to give Anthony “more money than the rest of those ungrateful kids.”
On July 31, 2018, Walter died in a tragic car accident in Portland, Oregon, leaving wife Marcy and three children.
On August 10, 2018, Brittany died of congestive heart failure.
A few weeks later, Charles and Anthony bring a probate proceeding in the appropriate California probate court. Please assume that all of the above facts are conclusively proven and not subject to any reasonable dispute.
Please discuss and answer the following questions:
1) 1. Is the handwritten page valid as a testamentary instrument? In connection with this, is Yvonne’s testimony as to the conversation with Brittany on July 17 relevant and admissible?
2) 2. Assuming that the handwritten page is valid as a testamentary instrument, what happens to the $10,000 gifts to the grandchildren?
3) 3. Charles and Suzanne challenge the July 17 “will,” arguing that the handwritten paper, even if valid as a testamentary instrument, should be void based on incapacity and/or undue influence. Are these arguments likely to succeed?
4) 4. Who is entitled to Walter’s share of the estate?
5) 5. Who is entitled to notice that the will is being probated?
You do not need to cite specific case law for this assignment. However, you must still support your answers with good legal sources from the State of California, and the law that you use must be consistent with the materials covered in class and in the reading assignments.
You do not need IRAC-based essays to cover each of the 5 questions. Each question can be answered in 1-3 paragraphs.