Unambiguous Will May Be Reformed By Court If Intent Is Clear

By Robert J. Lanzone Historically under California law, extrinsic evidence has been held to be inadmissible to reform an otherwise unambiguous Will.  Extrinsic evidence, for example, would be testimony by potential beneficiary, or a letter or email of the decedent.  The court would not look beyond the words written in the Will.  This has been the law for over a century.  New to California, the Supreme Court, following a discussion of the evolution of probate law since 1872, found that...

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Transfer on Death Deed for Residential Property

By Robert J. Lanzone California law has been changed, effective January 1, 2016, to allow an owner of real property to create a “transfer on death” designation by a deed.  This is a new law.  California has, until this year, required real property to be transferred on death by probate (court proceeding), by joint tenancy deed, community property deed with right of survivorship or through a revocable or irrevocable trust. Probate Code Section 5600 et seq. sets forth the provisions for...

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Estate Planning Benefits for Same-Sex Couples

By Kimberly L. Chu The historic Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, affirming a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states, opened estate planning opportunities for couples in the 13 states that had not permitted same-sex marriage.  Same-sex couples in those states (Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas) were functioning in a gray area.  For those who were married out-of-state and could obtain federal benefits of marriage, their...

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Mediation–An Affordable, Efficient and Flexible Option for Dispute Resolution

By Gregory J. Rubens What is Mediation? Mediation is an informal voluntary process where a neutral third party (the “mediator”) assists in resolving disputes outside of court, typically in an office setting.  The mediator does not make a decision on the merits of a case, but uses his or her skills and experience to guide the parties to a resolution.  Under California law, mediation is confidential.  This confidentiality helps the mediator and parties to operate in a frank and open environment,...

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When is an Equitable Easement Equitable?

By Robert J. Lanzone California law allows for a court to compel a landowner to accept money damage for the fair value of his/her property for which a neighbor has trespassed with a fence, a building, retaining wall or some permanent physical encroachment.  The court will refuse to cause the physical structure to be removed.  This has been the law for over 75 years.  Tashakori v. Lakis (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 1003, Christensen v. Tucker (1952) 144 Cal.App.2d 554. The court must...

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