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Estate of Obernolte
California Court of Appeal
91 Cal. App. 3d 124 (1979)
Jennie Obernolte had her attorney draft a will for her three times. The last of these wills divided Obernolte’s estate among six relatives, including her daughter, Dona Wilson (plaintiff). Obernolte’s attorney kept a duplicate of this will in his office, which was less than two blocks from Obernolte’s residence. Obernolte kept her copy of the will in a locked chest. Obernolte did not have many visitors, and the sole person who lived with her was a handyman who helped her with her apartment complex. Obernolte did not have a close relationship with her relatives. The month before her death, Obernolte twice told people that she was going to tear up her will, seemingly as a threat to her relatives. However, during the same time period, Obernolte expressed concern about the will’s safety and talked about moving it to a safer location. Eleven days before her death, Obernolte visited her attorney to discuss a business matter. Obernolte also chatted with the attorney’s secretary about several things during this visit. However, Obernolte never mentioned wanting to revoke or rewrite her will to either her attorney or the secretary. After Obernolte’s death, Wilson looked for the will in the chest and throughout Obernolte’s residence, but she did not locate it. When Obernolte’s attorney showed his copy to Wilson, he said she appeared upset that she was inheriting only one-sixth of Obernolte’s estate. If there were no will, Wilson would likely inherit Obernolte’s entire estate. Wilson petitioned to have Obernolte’s will declared revoked, relying on the will’s absence to presume that Obernolte had intentionally revoked it by destroying it. However, the trial court found that it was equally probable that someone else had destroyed the will and denied Wilson’s request to invalidate the will. Wilson appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Cobey, J.)
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