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Estate of Griswold

24 P.3d 1191 (2001)

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Estate of Griswold

California Supreme Court

24 P.3d 1191 (2001)

Facts

Denis Morris was born out of wedlock. Denis’s birth certificate listed his father as John Draves, and his mother filed a court petition to declare Draves as Denis’s legal father. In court, Draves admitted that he was Denis’s father. Per court order, Draves then paid the mother’s pregnancy-related medical expenses and weekly child support for the first 18 years of Denis’s life. Draves and Denis never had any contact, though. When Denis was a year old, his mother married Fred Griswold. Denis began going by Denis Griswold, and he thought for many years that Fred Griswold was his biological father. Draves married and had two children. Draves never told these children about Denis. Denis’s mother and Draves both died before Denis. When Denis died, he was married to Norma Doner-Griswold (plaintiff) and had no children. Denis did not have a will. Denis’s half-siblings, Draves’s other two children, were still alive and assigned their rights in Denis’s estate to Francis See (defendant), a self-proclaimed forensic genealogist who hunted for inheritances. Doner-Griswold filed a petition to have Denis’s estate distributed to her under the intestacy laws. See objected to the distribution, claiming that part of Denis’s estate belonged to Draves’s other two children under the intestacy laws and that she owned the rights to that portion. The validity of See’s claim turned on whether Draves had a right to inherit from Denis. The trial court found that Draves had no inheritance rights, but the appellate court reversed and found that Draves did have a right to inherit from Denis’s estate. The California Supreme Court granted Doner-Griswold’s petition for review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Baxter, J.)

Concurrence (Brown, J.)

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