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Bernhard v. Bank of America National Trust & Savings Association

Supreme Court of California
122 P.2d 892 (Cal. 1942)


Facts

Clara Sather, an elderly woman, was in poor health so authorized Charles Cook, who had taken her in and was taking care of her, to make withdrawals from her account at the Security First National Bank of Los Angeles (LA Bank). Cook later opened an account at the First National Bank of San Dimas (SD Bank) in the name of “Clara Sather by Charles O. Cook.” Subsequently, in the presence of a teller, a cashier, Cook, and Sather’s doctor, Sather signed a form authorizing the transfer of all the funds in the LA Bank from the LA Bank account to the SD Bank account. Cook later withdrew the entire balance from the SD Bank account and opened a new account in the name of himself and his wife. When Sather died, Cook became executor of her estate and administered the estate without mentioning the funds transferred to the SD Bank. Helen Bernhard and other beneficiaries of Sather’s will (plaintiffs) filed objections to the administration of the will in probate court. The probate court ruled that Sather, during her lifetime, had made a gift to Cook in the amount of the transferred money. Bernhard, after taking over as administratrix of the estate, brought suit against Bank of America National Trust & Savings Association (B of A) (defendant), the successor to the SD Bank. Bernhard sought to recover the amount of the transfer. The trial court ruled in favor of B of A because Cook’s ownership of the funds was established conclusively in the probate court and Bernhard’s claim was precluded as res judicata. Bernhard appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Traynor, J.)

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