California Supreme Court fundamentally alters probate law

In re Estate of Duke (2015) 61 Cal.4th 871 (California Supreme Court). From time immemorial, courts throughout the United States have been powerless to correct drafting mistakes in wills no matter how clearly the evidence established the testator’s actual intent. Courts could use the doctrine of reformation to correct such mistakes in all other documents, including other probate alternatives such as trusts. But wills were historically treated differently.

GMSR represented two charities before the Supreme Court, convincing the high Court to review the case and to chart a new course in will reformation. In a detailed decision, the Supreme Court held that will reformation is now available when a mistake is established by clear and convincing evidence.