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Sanders v. Yanez

California Court of Appeals, Sixth District

July 30, 2015

MARY LOU SANDERS, as Trustee, etc., Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
JODY LYNN SANDERS YANEZ, Objector and Respondent.

Monterey County Superior No. MP21478 Court Honorable Thomas W. Wills Trial Judge:

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Susan Wallace for Plaintiff and Appellant:

Law Office of Lisa J. Frisella, Lisa J. Frisella and Mara Christine Allard for Objector and Respondent:

OPINION

MIHARA, J.

Appellant Mary Lou Sanders, cotrustee of the Marion C. Sanders Trust (the Trust), appeals from the probate court’s order denying her

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petition and finding that her adopted son, Andrew J. Wallace, is not a beneficiary of the Trust. Mary is the income beneficiary of the Trust. The Trust provides that, upon Mary’s death, Mary’s “issue” will receive the Trust’s assets, and it defines “issue” to include “adopted children.” However, the probate court concluded that Andrew did not fall within this definition of “issue” because he had been adopted as an adult under Texas adoption statutes. The probate court believed that a Texas parent-child relationship did not encompass the same rights and duties as a California parent-child relationship. We conclude that the probate court’s decision is not supported by the law. Hence, we reverse its order and remand with directions to grant Mary’s petition.

I. Background

Mary is the only child of the marriage of Marion C. Sanders and Herbert H. Sanders. Mary’s half brother, George, is Herbert’s son and Marion’s stepson. Respondent Jody Lynn Sanders Yanez is George’s eldest daughter.

In 1975, Marion executed a will prepared by a California attorney and executed in California. Marion’s will placed most of her separate property assets in the Trust and provided that Mary would receive the income from the Trust during her lifetime. It further provided that, if Mary needed additional funds, the corporate cotrustee of the Trust, Bank of America, was authorized to provide her and “any issue” with payments from the principal of the Trust. Upon Mary’s death, the remainder of the Trust’s assets was to be distributed “for the benefit of the then living issue” of Mary.[1] The will provided: “The word ‘issue’ as used in this Will shall refer to lawful lineal descendants of all degrees and shall include legally adopted children.” If Mary had “no living issue” ...


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