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Estate of Taff

63 Cal. App. 3d 319 (1976)

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Estate of Taff

California Court of Appeal

63 Cal. App. 3d 319 (1976)

Facts

Pearl Taff verbally instructed her attorney to draft a will giving specific gifts to her late husband’s two sisters but not to anyone else in her late husband’s family. Further, Taff wanted the residue of her estate, i.e., the property left after all the specific gifts had been distributed, to go to her sister, Margaret Aulman. However, if Aulman died before Taff, Taff wanted her residuary estate to go to her own blood relatives. After this meeting, Taff wrote Aulman and told her that Taff was leaving her residuary estate to Aulman and Aulman’s heirs. However, Taff’s attorney drafted the will to read that if Aulman died first, Taff’s residuary estate would go to “my heirs,” and Taff signed it. On its face, this language gave Taff’s residuary estate to all her possible heirs, including her late husband’s sisters, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren (the legal heirs) (plaintiffs). Aulman died before Taff. When Taff died, the legal heirs made a claim to her residuary estate. Relatives who were related to Taff by blood (blood heirs) (defendants) contested the claim, presenting testimony from Taff’s attorney and the letter to Aulman to show that the reference in Taff’s residuary clause to “my heirs” meant only Taff’s blood heirs. The trial court found that the residue of Taff’s estate went to only the blood heirs. The legal heirs appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Franson, J.)

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