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Estate of Wolfe

Supreme Court of California
311 P.2d 476 (1957)


Facts

Mr. Merland Wolfe and Mrs. Troi Wolfe (defendant) were married from 1935 until Mr. Wolfe passed away in 1952. Mr. and Mrs. Wolfe separated twice over the course of their marriage, and before their last reconciliation, they entered into a written property-settlement agreement. Mr. Wolfe died believing that the property-settlement agreement was still in effect, and Mr. Wolfe's will explicitly stated that all property in which he owned an interest was his separate property. Mr. Wolfe's will set forth that some of his estate would go to Mrs. Wolfe but that the residue of his estate would go into trust for both Mrs. Wolfe and Mr. Wolfe’s sister, Leanore Wolfe (plaintiff), with the survivor receiving the estate in fee simple. Because Mr. and Mrs. Wolfe had reconciled, as a matter of law, the property-settlement agreement was no longer in effect, and all of the property they owned was community property. Mrs. Wolfe claimed both her one-half interest as the surviving spouse in all of the community property as well as all of the interests she was given as a named beneficiary in Mr. Wolfe's will. Leanore Wolfe brought an action in the trial court for a declaratory judgment that Mrs. Wolfe was required to elect either her community-property interest or her interest as a named beneficiary, but not both. The trial court found that Mrs. Wolfe was not required to elect and choose between her beneficiary interests and her community-property interests. Leanore Wolfe appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Shenk, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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