Sound estate planning requires a clear description of how property will pass upon death – in other words, who gets what. So what happens when the written terms differ from what the will’s creator actually wanted?
Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court ruled in Estate of Duke (2015) 61 Cal.4th 871 that courts may correct a mistake in the wording of a will even if the language in question is not ambiguous. The proponent of the correction (also known as reformation) must provide clear and convincing evidence of both (1) a mistake in the expression of intent and (2) the actual specific intent of the maker when the will was written. The decision opens the door in California to a new kind of trust and estate litigation.