Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Will Giving ‘My Money’ to Friends Given Broad Reading by C.A
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
The phrase “my money,” as used in a holographic will, included bank accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, a mutual fund investing in government securities, treasury bills, and savings bonds, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
The justices affirmed a Sutter Superior Court judge’s ruling awarding more than $650,000 of liquid assets accumulated by Joseph Goyette to two friends, over the objections of three cousins who were Goyette’s nearest relatives. One of the cousins was Goyette’s next-door neighbor.
The holographic will left James Hayward and Vi York each “Fifty percent of my money.” It also gave a lot to Hayward and the decedent’s home to York.
Justice Ronald Robie, writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed that Goyette intended to give York and Hayward all of his financial assets.
The justice cited past cases holding that the term “money” should be interpreted flexibly in determining a testator’s intent, even if this means ignoring the plain English definition of the word.
Goyette’s will, Robie reasoned, shows that he generally intended to benefit York and Hayward, and no one else. To interpret the will as giving half of his estate to unmentioned heirs would be inconsistent with that intent, the justice said, as well as with the presumption against intestacy.
“Goyette’s will also shows Goyette’s lack of legal sophistication. His bequests of his real property do not identify that real property in any technical or legal sense. He bequeathed ‘the lot across the street from [his] home’ and ‘[his] home and the lots around it.’...[W]e conclude this lack of legal sophistication supports the conclusion that Goyette used the term ‘my money’ in its most flexible sense to include all of his financial assets.”
Justices Richard Sims III and Fred Morrison concurred in the opinion.
The case is Estate of Goyette, C045728.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company