Thursday, July 26, 2001
Trust Clause Ending Payments on Remarriage Void—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A will that terminated trust income to the deceased’s surviving spouse should she remarry was void as an invalid restraint on marriage, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
In an opinion by Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of Div. Six, the court reversed a probate court order denying Darlene Guidotti’s petition to reform her deceased husband’s will.
It was clear from testimony provided by counsel for the husband, Earl Guidotti, that the husband was a jealous man who didn’t want his wife to have another relationship after he was gone. The lawyer said in his declaration that his client instructed him to draft the will “in such a manner that Darlene would be severely penalized in the event she remarried or lived with another man as if married.”
The paramount rule of construing testamentary documents is that the intention of the testator must be carried out as fully as possible. The problem, Gilbert noted, is that Civil Code Sec. 710 discourages restraints on marriage.
The statute reads:
“Conditions imposing restraints upon marriage are…void; but this does not affect limitations where the intent was not to forbid marriage, but only to give the use until marriage.”
San Luis Superior Court Judge Roger J. Picquet found Earl Guidotti’s remarriage-discouraging clause harsh and punitive, but valid, given the Sec. 710 language about the intent being to give use until marriage.
It also, the judge found, reflected an intention that Darlene Guidotti be provided for until a new partner could provide for her.
But Gilbert said that interpretation did not sufficiently take into account the jealousy that the husband reflected in his language, as well as his instruction to his lawyer.
“We draw the reasonable inference from the declaration of the drafting attorney that Earl intended to restrict Darlene from remarrying or living with a man,” Gilbert said.
The case is Guidotti v. Lockyer, B145085.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company