San Diego County Superior Court

For centuries, serious legal scholars have debated what is possibly the most vital question of our times: in what ways, if any, does our judicial system differ from basketball? Now, thanks to the California Supreme Court’s recent decision in Haggerty v. Thornton (2024) 15 Cal.5th 729, we finally have an answer.

Longtime readers of

I am not an expert on Zen Buddhism.  However, even if I had spent decades of my life studying its tenets (instead of, for example, baseball stats from the 1920’s), I would hesitate to call myself an expert because of what would be my resulting adherence to shoshin, the Zen Buddhist concept of

[Editor’s Note: The California Supreme Court granted review of Haggerty v. Thornton on December 22, 2021 in Case No. S271483.  The Supreme Court is likely to resolve the conflict between Haggerty v. Thornton and King v. Lynch.  In the meantime, per the Supreme Court’s order, the Haggerty opinion remains citable.]

The Legislature and courts

Many California trusts confer a lifetime right to income on a person (often the surviving spouse) with the remainder passing to designated survivors upon the income beneficiary’s death.  When the income beneficiary dies, is it too late for the executor of the beneficiary’s estate to request an accounting for the purpose of evaluating whether the

(Editor’s Note: The Court of Appeal granted rehearing on December 2, 2019 and later depublished the portion of its opinion discussed below such that it is no longer citable authority in California courts.)

It is widely understood in California that inherited assets, unlike assets earned from labor, are the separate property of the receiving spouse.  But what if the assets do not come directly from a parent and instead pass from one sibling to another?

Inheritance for separate property purposes generally means direct inheritance, says the California Court of Appeal.  That’s the lesson of In re Marriage of Deluca (2019) 41 Cal.App.5th 598.

When a man dies in California, who gets the proceeds of his life insurance policy? The answer seems obvious: the named beneficiaries in the paperwork received and accepted by the life insurance company.

But what if the man gave the policy away during his lifetime? Can he cancel the gift and redirect the proceeds to others?  No, said the California Court of Appeal in Dudek v. Dudek (2019) 34 Cal.App.5th 154. Even though the life insurance company may not have recognized the gift, its recipient can recover the policy proceeds from those who received them.