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Andersen v. Hunt

June 14, 2011

STEPHEN ANDERSEN ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND RESPONDENTS,
v.
PAULINE HUNT, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TRUSTEE ETC., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzukawa, J.

Certified for Partial Publication.*fn1

Rehearing Denied July 6, 2011

Review Denied Aug. 24, 2011

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs and respondents Stephen Andersen (Stephen) and Kathleen Brandt (Kathleen) are the children of decedent Wayne Andersen (Wayne), who died April 28, 2006.*fn2 Plaintiff John Andersen (John), not a party to this appeal, is Stephen's son and Wayne's grandson. Appellant Pauline Hunt (Pauline) was Wayne's long-term romantic partner. Taylor Profita (Taylor) is Pauline's grandson.

In 1992, Wayne and his wife established a family trust that named Stephen and Kathleen the sole beneficiaries after their parents' deaths. Wayne's wife died in 1993. In 2003, after suffering a stroke, Wayne amended his trust to leave a 60 percent portion of his estate to Pauline, with the remainder going to Stephen, Kathleen, and John. He made subsequent amendments later in 2003 and in 2004, but retained the provision leaving 60 percent of his estate to Pauline.

After Wayne's death in 2006, Stephen and Kathleen brought the present action to, among other things, invalidate the 2003 and 2004 trust amendments and recover funds placed in accounts held jointly by Wayne and Pauline. The probate court found that Wayne lacked capacity to execute the trust amendments, transfer funds from the trust to joint tenancy accounts, and change the beneficiary of his life insurance policy, and that Pauline exerted undue influence with respect to the amendments and transfers.

In the published part of the opinion, we conclude the probate court erred when it evaluated Wayne's capacity to execute the trust amendments by the general standard of capacity set out in Probate Code sections 810 to 812, instead of the standard of testamentary capacity set out in Probate Code section 6100.5.*fn3 In the unpublished part, we find there is no substantial evidence that Wayne lacked testamentary capacity to execute the 2003 and 2004 trust amendments or that the amendments were the product of Pauline's undue influence. We also determine there is substantial evidence that Wayne lacked capacity to open joint tenancy accounts and to change the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. Thus, we reverse the part of the judgment invalidating the trust amendments and affirm in all other respects.

STATEMENT OF FACTS AND OF THE CASE FN2

DISCUSSION *fn4

III. The Trial Court Erred in Evaluating Wayne's Capacity to Execute the Trust Amendments by Standards of Contractual Capacity, Not Testamentary Capacity

The probate court held that Wayne's capacity to execute the trust amendments should be evaluated pursuant to sections 810 to 812 ("contractual capacity"), rather than section 6100.5 ("testamentary capacity"). It also found that Wayne lacked contractual capacity as defined by sections 810 to 812.

Pauline contends that the trial court erred in evaluating Wayne's capacity to execute the trust amendments by the standard of contractual capacity, rather than testamentary capacity. She also contends substantial evidence does not support the conclusion that Wayne lacked testamentary ...


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