Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 30, 2009

"That's When We Were Going to Get Married", Part II.

One avenue I pursued at trial was to show that the purported will or trust amendment was not merely “transcribed” from the decedent’s dictation (as the Respondent claimed), but was actually drafted by the Respondent. (Generally, California law invalidates testamentary documents benefiting such drafters).

One my clients served as a university professor, with a Ph.D. in linguistics, in addition to being familiar with his father’s speech and writing patters over several decades. After laying this foundation (and introducing exemplars of his father’s communications), I asked him if the language contained in the subject handwritten note (which Respondent admitted was her own handwriting) could have been his father’s. Focusing on the numerous grammatical, spelling and word choice errors, he opined it could not be the product of his father’s speech or writing. For example, the note used “dismiss” and “dismissal” in place of “death” in two places. Because the other side had not served a demand for exchange of expert witness information, and this witness (the son) had been on the witness list from the beginning, my opponent could only watch as this damaging testimony came in without rebuttal.

In the ruling, the trial court found the decedent “did not dictate” the disputed document “based on the” fact that “the language … contain[ed] spelling and grammar errors in addition to the use of incorrect words” which the court found in contrast to how the decedent communicated.

Nice bonus to have a client who can offer salient expert testimony.