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Estate of Russell

Supreme Court of California
444 P.2d 353 (1968)

Estate of Russell


Thelma L. Russell died testate with a validly executed holographic will. Thelma’s will left all of her real and personal property to Chester H. Quinn (defendant) and Roxy Russell, Thelma’s deceased dog. The will also left her ten-dollar gold piece and diamonds to Georgia Nan Russell Hembree (plaintiff), Thelma’s niece and only heir at law. Georgia petitioned for determination of heirship alleging that half of the estate should pass to her under the laws of intestacy because the devise to Roxy Russell lapsed since a dog is not statutorily entitled to take under a will. Georgia offered extrinsic evidence to show that Roxy Russell was a dog alive at the time the will was executed but deceased when Thelma died. Chester offered extrinsic evidence in order to show that Thelma intended that the entire estate pass to Chester with the understanding that he would take care of Roxy, rather than as an outright gift to the dog. The evidence in support of this assertion consisted primarily of testimony by Chester that he discussed with Thelma taking care of Roxy if anything happened to her. Georgia objected to this extrinsic evidence of Thelma’s intent as inadmissible because the gift to Roxy was clear and unambiguous. The trial court found that Thelma intended Chester to receive the entire estate and the bequest to Roxy merely indicated her wish that he would care for the dog after her death. Georgia appealed to the Supreme Court of California.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Sullivan, J.)

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