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Estate of Bray

Court of Appeal of California
40 Cal. Rptr. 750 (1964)


Facts

Walter Bray and Belle Bray (plaintiff) were married in 1919. In 1920, Walter started a business, and in 1938, at Walter’s request, Walter’s son Dick Bray (defendant) began working in the business. In 1944, Walter opened a joint-tenancy savings account with Dick and made deposits into the savings account from the business checking account each year until his death. No withdrawals were made from the savings account during Walter's lifetime. Dick knew that the account existed but did not have any information as to the balance or deposits on the account until after Walter’s death. Walter also purchased savings bonds jointly in  his and Dick’s names. Dick knew that the savings bonds existed but did not have any other information, as the bonds were solely in Walter’s possession until Walter’s death in 1960. Belle was not aware of either the joint-tenancy savings account or the savings bonds jointly held between Walter and Dick. In the distribution of Walter’s estate, Dick claimed the full value of the account and bonds, while Belle claimed a one-half interest in the account and bonds in accordance with California Civil Code § 172. The evidence at trial included recollections from multiple parties that Dick had earned the funds, that Dick's employment performance was integral to the business success, and that Walter wanted Dick to have the funds because of his performance but did not want Dick to know the funds existed until Walter’s death. The probate court decided that Walter had made the transfers in exchange for the valuable consideration of the business services that Dick had provided from 1938 until Walter's death. Belle appealed the probate court's decision.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Salsman, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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