Case Conclusion Date: December 26, 2012
Practice Area: Appeals
Outcome: Judgment affirmed.
Description: The will and trust of Oligario Lira named his three natural children and three of his six stepchildren as beneficiaries. Oligario executed his will and trust while he was married to Mary Terrones, the mother of his stepchildren, but after she had commenced dissolution proceedings. The judgment dissolving their marriage was entered four months before Oligario's death. Oligario's natural daughter, appellant Mary Lira Ratcliff (Mary Ratcliff) challenged his will and trust. She contended that Oligario's donative transfers to his stepson beneficiaries were disqualified under Probate section 21350, subdivision (a)(2),2 because they were related to the lawyer who drafted the will and trust (Oligario's step-grandson).3 In opposition, respondent Robert Terrones, successor trustee of the trust (Robert) claimed that the disqualification did not apply because Oligario (the transferor) was related by marriage to his stepson beneficiaries. (§ 21351, subd. (a).) The trial court concluded that the transfers were valid because section 21351, subdivision (a) exempted them from disqualification. Mary Ratcliff contends that the section 21351, subdivision (a) exemption did not apply because the transfers did not occur until after Oligario's death, and after the end of his relationship with his stepsons. We hold that the section 21351, subdivision (a) exemption from disqualification applies where the transferor and transferee are related at the time that the transferor executes the donative instruments. Section 21351, subdivision (a) does not require that the transferor and transferee be related upon the death of the transferor. In this case, Oligario was related to his stepson beneficiaries upon his execution of the donative instruments. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal concluded that his transfers to them were valid and affirm the findings and orders of the trial court.