June 2, 2016

Holographic Will

This unpublished appellate opinion demonstrates how certain facts ostensibly entice litigation.  

Callahan v. Callahan, Los Angeles Superior Court Case # BP108910.  

John Callahan was originally  married to Pauline Callahan for many years. Pauline passed away in 1999.

"John and Angela Callahan met in early February 2000 when she became John's caregiver. They were married on September 26, 2000. John did not inform his children of the marriage until 2003."

There are a couple of interesting facts just from the above paragraph. First, John married his caretaker. I would venture to say that most caretakers do not marry their care recipients. Second, John married her within 7 months of meeting her. That would constitute a whirlwind romance. Third, John did not mention his marriage to his children. As a parent, I would tell my child if I re-married. 

"On December 9, 2006, John executed a holographic will providing that upon his death, Angela would receive a life interest in his home where they lived. When Angela died, the house was to be conveyed to John's four children, with an interest also given to Ethel Meneses, Angela's daughter from her first marriage."

Again an interesting fact. John wrote a holographic will. I have never advised a client, who has sufficient time, to draft a holographic will. A holographic will is almost always an ill-conceived idea. I have never met, and I doubt I ever will, a non-lawyer with a firm grasp of probate law. Thus, the person pens the holographic will under the erroneous assumption that the document is clear, concise and enforceable. Typically a holographic will lacks at least one, if not all, of those aforementioned attributes.    

"On December 15, 2007, John signed a holographic will giving both Angela and Ethel a life estate in his home, with the property passing after their deaths to John's children. John suffered a heart attack on December 17, 2007, and died on December 27, 2007.

In February 2008 Angela filed a petition for probate of the 2007 will and for letters of administration with will annexed, as well as a petition to administer John's estate. She attached a copy of the 2007 will to the petition for probate. John's children objected to the admission to probate of the will, to Angela's request to be appointed personal representative to administer John's estate." 

In hindsight, John and Angela should've consulted with an attorney in regards to their estate plan. Since more than a year elapsed between the drafting of the 1st and 2nd holographic wills, there was ample time to find a suitable attorney. If an attorney had been retained, the likelihood of litigation would've decreased. By opting for the holographic will route, the facts almost invited a lawsuit.