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Estate of Daisy Ellen Gregory, Deceased. v. Beverly Seghezzi

January 30, 2013

ESTATE OF DAISY ELLEN GREGORY, DECEASED. DON PATTERSON, AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR, ETC., PETITIONER AND RESPONDENT,
v.
BEVERLY SEGHEZZI, OBJECTOR AND APPELLANT; AMOS SEGHEZZI, APPELLANT. FLOYD HUGGINS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR, ETC., PLAINTIFF
v.
BEVERLY SEGHEZZI ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



(Super. Ct. No. P14966) (Super. Ct. No. 74882)

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

Estate of Gregory CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.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 an appeal of an order admitting the will of Daisy Ellen Gregory to probate. Appellant Beverly Seghezzi is the niece of Gregory's husband, who preceded Gregory in death. Seghezzi contends that the trial court erred in sustaining respondent's demurrer to Seghezzi's will contest and objections to the probate petition on standing grounds without leave to amend.*fn1

We shall conclude Seghezzi should be allowed to amend her will contest to allege, if she can, that she would be an intestate heir, and would receive a larger share of the decedent's estate if the decedent died intestate than she would receive under the will.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Daisy Ellen Gregory, the decedent, was married to Orville Gregory for 68 years. They had no children. Orville Gregory died in April 2008, and his estate passed to the decedent. The decedent died seven months later, in November 2008. The decedent executed a will on June 21, 2001, that divided her estate between various persons and entities, including, as is relevant, a 14 percent interest to each of her four nieces and nephews (Don, Ronnie, and Lonnie Patterson, and Barbara Ross) and an 8 percent interest to Orville Gregory's niece, Seghezzi.*fn2

Seghezzi's will contest and objections to the probate petition alleged she was an 8 percent beneficiary of the decedent's estate under the will filed for probate, dated June 21, 2001. She objected to the probate petition on several grounds. As is relevant, she alleged that the decedent revoked her will prior to her death and distributed her entire estate to Seghezzi. This allegation is based on Seghezzi's statement that the decedent added Seghezzi and Amos Seghezzi as joint account holders on her four certificates of deposit and on her checking account.*fn3 Seghezzi stated that the decedent knew that holding title in joint tenancy was a way to transfer assets after her death, and that the decedent had decided not to leave any of the funds in the accounts to her own niece or nephews. Seghezzi stated that the decedent told her that she did not plan to leave anything as provided in her will. According to Seghezzi, the decedent told her some of the will beneficiaries were people she had not seen for years, some were deceased, some had already been provided for, and some she did not like.

The will contest and probate petition proceeding were consolidated below with an action by the beneficiaries and executor of the decedent's will against Seghezzi. That action is a complaint for damages alleging, inter alia, constructive fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and financial elder abuse. It alleged that the decedent suffered from dementia since before her husband's death seven months prior to her own. It alleged that one month after the decedent's husband died, Seghezzi moved the decedent from her home in Kansas and installed her in an assisted living facility in Grass Valley, California. It further alleged that Seghezzi asserted undue influence in inducing the decedent to give Seghezzi a durable power of attorney, and that the decedent was not competent to execute the power of attorney. It also alleged that Seghezzi added herself and her husband as joint account holders on the decedent's checking, saving, and certificate of deposit accounts, which together held approximately $480,000.

Respondent demurred to Seghezzi's will contest and objection to probate on the grounds that Seghezzi had no standing to object, that the will contest stated no facts to support a claim of revocation, and that the will contest was facially ambiguous in that it failed to allege the date, time, place, manner, and circumstance of the revocation.

Specifically regarding Seghezzi's standing to object, respondent argued Seghezzi must show she has an interest that would be impaired or defeated by the contested will. Respondent asserted that if the will were invalid Seghezzi would be entitled to either the same 8 percent given her under a prior will, or to nothing if the decedent died intestate. Either way, if the will were invalid Seghezzi's interest would not be impaired.

Seghezzi's response to this argument was that her 8 percent interest in the estate under the will gave her a right in the estate of the decedent, and that her joint tenancy in the assets of the decedent gave her a property right in or claim against the estate.

The probate court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend on the ground Seghezzi had no standing to contest the will. The court reasoned that Seghezzi would not have an interest in the decedent's intestate estate because she was not the decedent's niece, but her predeceased husband's niece. Also, the decedent's prior will left Seghezzi the same 8 percent interest in the decedent's estate. Therefore if the ...


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