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Straley v. Gamble

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Second Division

June 25, 2013

STEVEN M. STRALEY, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
WILLIAM O. GAMBLE III, as Trustee, etc., Defendant and Respondent.

APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. YP011575 Dudley W. Gray II, Judge.

Spierer, Woodward, Corbalis & Goldberg and Stephen B. Goldberg for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Law Office of Susan H. Hoover and Susan H. Hoover for Defendant and Respondent.

ASHMANN-GERST, J.

Steven M. Straley appeals from a trial court order denying his petition for an order to determine the validity of a trust amendment (the petition). He contends that the trial court erred in finding that the petition was untimely pursuant to Probate Code sections 16061.7 and 16061.8[1] and that it was barred by the principle of laches.

We agree with appellant that he timely brought an action to contest the trust. Accordingly, we reverse.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Factual Background

Rebecca S. Straley, appellant’s mother, was the trustor and settlor of the Rebecca S. Straley Living Trust Dated May 27, 2009 (the trust). Appellant was deliberately not named as a beneficiary of the trust. But, under the provisions of the trust, Mrs. Straley had the right, as settlor, to amend the trust in writing as she elected.

On April 3, 2011, Mrs. Straley executed (or attempted to sign) some sort of amendment to the trust (the amendment), purportedly distributing her entire estate to appellant. According to appellant’s opening brief, Mrs. Straley had reconciled with appellant and wanted to amend the trust to include him as a beneficiary. Respondent William O. Gamble III (trustee), the successor trustee, challenges the validity of the amendment, pointing out that the amendment does not mention the trust, does not state that it was amending the trust, was likely “typed” by someone when Mrs. Straley was on her deathbed, and a shaky “R” is supposed to be Mrs. Straley’s signature.

Mrs. Straley passed away on April 6, 2011.

Procedural Background

On April 21, 2011, the successor trustee served appellant with notice of the administration of the trust, pursuant to section 16061.7. Five days later, appellant was served with a copy of the trust.

On August 18, 2011, appellant filed the petition. In the petition, appellant asked the trial court to determine whether the entire trust distribution had been changed pursuant to the amendment. Appellant did not, however, serve notice of his ...


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