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Estate of Tolman v. Jennings
California Court of Appeal
181 Cal. App. 4th 1433, 104 Cal. Rptr. 3d 924 (2010)
Nellie Tolman had two children. Tolman’s will left $10,000 each to her deceased son’s two daughters, Tolman’s granddaughters, Deborah Tomlinson (plaintiff) and Laurie Onan. The will stated that these gifts would lapse if either granddaughter died before Tolman. Tolman’s will left the rest of her estate, i.e., her residuary estate, to her daughter, Betty Joe Miller, with no mention of the gift lapsing if Miller died before Tolman. Tolman’s will also contained a provision stating that Tolman was intentionally omitting any living heirs who had not been mentioned in the will. At the time of Tolman’s death, Miller had already passed away. Under California’s antilapse statute, Miller’s gift would pass to Miller’s living lineal descendants: Miller’s son, Michael Jennings (defendant), and Miller’s three grandchildren. However, Tomlinson petitioned for a finding that the unnamed-heir paragraph in Tolman’s will prevented anyone other than Tomlinson, Onan, and Miller from inheriting. Because the antilapse statute would give Miller’s gift to unnamed heirs, Tomlinson argued that Tolman’s unnamed-heir provision had impliedly overridden the antilapse statute. Under Tomlinson’s interpretation of the will, Miller’s death meant that Miller’s gift had lapsed and, as the only remaining named heirs, Tomlinson and Onan should inherit Tolman’s entire $1 million estate. The trial court denied Tomlinson’s petition, finding that the antilapse statute applied and that Tolman’s residuary estate went to Miller’s lineal descendants.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Lichtman, J.)
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