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Bay v. Estate of Bay

105 P.3d 434 (2005)

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Bay v. Estate of Bay

Washington Court of Appeals

105 P.3d 434 (2005)

Facts

John Bay created a will while he was married to his first wife, Cathy. This will left John’s entire estate to Cathy or, in the alternative, to his two children, Kelly and Eric Bay (defendants). When John and Cathy divorced, by statute, Cathy was automatically eliminated as a beneficiary of John’s will. Both John’s will and the divorce papers communicated John’s desire to make sure that his children could afford an advanced education. John later remarried. John then changed the beneficiaries of his $360,000 retirement account to give 80 percent or roughly $290,000 to his second wife, Laura Bay (plaintiff), and 10 percent each to Kelly and Eric. One year after John married Laura, while Kelly and Eric were still teenagers, John committed suicide without ever changing his will to include Laura in it. After John’s death, Kelly and Eric each received approximately $50,000 from John through nonprobate transfers. In addition, under the terms of John’s will, Kelly and Eric would each receive approximately $54,000 of John’s separate personal property, but Laura would receive nothing. Laura claimed that, as an omitted spouse, she was entitled to receive an intestate share of John’s separate property, which would be one-half or $54,000. This distribution would leave Kelly and Eric with only $27,000 each. The superior court rejected Laura’s claim, finding that omitting Laura from the will was more consistent with John’s apparent overall estate-planning intent than giving Laura an intestate share. Laura appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Becker, J.)

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