Will Contest, Competency – Published Settlement

January 16, 1998
Will Contest
Respondent (Estate divided 62.5 percent to daughter and 37.5 percent to son; $25,000 each to three charities.) 
Case I.D. Confidential.
American Arbitration Association / November 11, 1997.
Deborah Rothman, Attorney at Law.
Contestant – Andrew P. Cipes (Aikenhead, Cipes & Supanich, Los Angeles).
Respondent – Alfred R. Keep (Simi Valley).
Decedent left three wills, dated 1981, 1985 and 1986. The 1981 will made relatively small bequests to her grandchildren and daughter-in-law, with the bulk of the estate to be divided between her two surviving children. As her mental health subsequently allegedly deteriorated, her son initiated conservatorship proceedings. Decedent’s 1985 will made similar bequests, but added a small bequest to her son, leaving the bulk of the estate to her daughter. The 1986 will included similar bequests, except that the bequests to her son was increased, her daughter’s share was decreased somewhat, and each of three charities was left equal shares of the residue of the estate. Decedent died on July 9, 1996. The 1986 will was offered into probate. Decedent’s son contested that will on December 5, 1996, on the basis of his late mother’s alleged lack of competency to execute a will, and his sister’s alleged undue influence over her. On March 1, 1997, the son filed a petition for admission of the 1981 will.
Decedent’s son contended that he should receive one-half of the distributable estate after payment of specific monetary bequests and the settlement with the charities totaling $75,000.

Decedent’s daughter contended that she should receive, under the 1986 will, one half of the gross estate before deductions for specific bequests, payment to the charities, executor commissions and attorney fees (but not before payment of taxes and creditor’s claims) as provided in the 1986 will.

The charities agreed to accept the compromised sum of $25,000 each, a total of $75,000, in settlement of their residuary interests in the 1986 will, the charities not having been mentioned in previous wills.

Two mediations were held in September and November 1997, before attorney Deborah Rothman, resulting in the reported settlement.
Decedent’s daughter took the position that she had the least to lose if the matter was litigated, since under non of the version of the will would she receive less than half of the residue of her mother’s estate. The three charities realized that only under the latest version of decedent’s will would they receive any money, so they agreed to accept the son and daughter’s offer. The settlement reached by the parties confirmed the specific bequests in the 1986 will, provided for payment of a total of $75,000 to the charities and provided that the son would received 37.5 percent and the daughter 62.5 percent of the estate after payment of all taxes, debts, commission, attorney fees and other expenses of administration.
The settlement was reached approximately 11 months after the contest was filed.
Copyright 1998 Daily Journal Corp. Reprinted with Permission.