The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hull, J.
California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.
This is a dispute between claimants of the estate of decedent Sally C. Patterson (Decedent). On one side are Decedent's siblings, objectors Nancy P. Lamb and Neal Patterson (Objectors), who claim the estate by right of intestate succession. On the other side is petitioner Jean Kaneko (Petitioner), who claims pursuant to a will executed by decedent in 1994.
Following a bench trial, the probate court concluded Objectors failed to disprove the validity of the 1994 will and entered an order admitting the will to probate. Objectors appeal. We conclude the evidence supports the findings of the probate court and affirm the order.
Decedent and James Kaneko (James) lived as husband and wife in a home in Damascus, Virginia, from the 1960s until James's death in 1999. They were never married. Sometime during this period, James inherited from his parents a residence in Lincoln, California.
James had a brother named Samuel Kaneko (Samuel). At all relevant times, Samuel was married to Petitioner.
In January 1994, James and Decedent executed mirror wills and trusts. The wills provided that, upon death, the assets of the testator would pour over into the trust. The trust in turn provided that, upon death, the trust assets would be distributed to the survivor. It further provided that, if there is no survivor, the trust assets shall be distributed to Samuel.
James died in 1999 and, pursuant to his 1994 will and trust, his estate was distributed to Decedent.
In September 1999, Decedent filed a lawsuit against Samuel and Petitioner alleging they fraudulently induced James to transfer ownership to them of an investment account valued at approximately $474,000. On November 29, 2000, the parties to this lawsuit entered into a settlement agreement whereby Samuel and Petitioner agreed to pay Decedent $270,000 and released Decedent from any and all claims.
Decedent lived in the Lincoln residence until her death on August 7, 2007.
On August 13, 2007, Nancy Lamb filed a petition for letters of administration, claiming Decedent died intestate and seeking appointment as administrator of the estate. Notice of the petition was served on Samuel. On September 24, the probate court appointed Lamb administrator of the estate.
Samuel died on April 8, 2008. At the time of his death, Samuel's will provided that all his assets poured over into the Samuel T. and Jean K. Kaneko Trust, of which Petitioner is the trustee and sole beneficiary.
On June 5, 2008, Lamb filed a first and final report of administrator and petition for payment of expenses and final distribution. In the report, Lamb declared that the original of Decedent's 1994 will had not been found and, therefore, must be presumed to have been destroyed by Decedent with intent to revoke.
On July 16, 2008, at the hearing on Lamb's petition for final distribution, Petitioner appeared and presented the original of Decedent's 1994 will, which she claimed to have received only a few days earlier. The court took the matter under submission.
On July 23, the court issued an order on submitted matter, denying Lamb's petition for final distribution. The court further directed Lamb to file an amended petition to administer the estate with will annexed.
On August 20, Petitioner filed an amended petition to probate will and for letters of administration with will annexed. Objectors filed objections, arguing, among other things, that Petitioner's petition was untimely, she has no standing to pursue the matter, and the earlier settlement agreement in the lawsuit between Decedent and Petitioner barred Petitioner from asserting a claim on the estate.
On November 10, 2008, the probate court issued an order on Petitioner's petition to probate the will. First, the court concluded Petitioner has standing as both an interested party and as a person having a claim against the estate. The court further concluded the petition was timely, because Petitioner only recently learned of the existence of the original will.
The court set a trial date on the validity of the will. At trial, the parties stipulated that Petitioner had met her burden of proving the will had been properly executed by Decedent and witnessed, thereby creating a presumption of its validity. The trial then proceeded on the issue of Decedent's testamentary intent at the time the will was executed and thereafter.
On November 10, 2009, the court issued a tentative decision, finding Objectors failed to prove Decedent did not have the requisite testamentary intent at the time she executed the will, Objectors failed to prove Decedent revoked the will thereafter, and the earlier settlement agreement is not a bar to Petitioner's petition. On December 3, the court issued ...