Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

Can contract signed by ill and feebleminded be nullified?

Hello. I am heir to a significant estate and my grandfather signed a contract with a man claiming to be a real estate agent whom wasn't, for an amount significalntly lower than it's true value. He was suffering from cancer and taking medications and may not have been in his right mind. In any case, it seems to be going for alot less than it's worth. How can this be stopped?

Asked on 12/04/05, 12:34 am

4 Answers from Attorneys

H.M. Torrey The Law Offices of H.M. Torrey

Re: Can contract signed by ill and feebleminded be nullified?

From the facts given, the contractual agreement can be voided immediately,thru injunctive relief, since it was induced by fraud. If you would like timely, affordable assistance, contact us directly hereafter.

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Answered on 12/04/05, 12:46 am
Lloyd Kirschbaum Law Offices of Lloyd Kirschbaum

Re: Can contract signed by ill and feebleminded be nullified?

It sounds as though your grandfather lacked (and still lacks) the capactiy to enter into a contract. That's a complete (although not ordinarily successful) defense to an attempt to enforce the contract. The burden of proof to show incapacity is a higher standard than in many other aspects of civil law. To use your grandfather's lack of capacity as an affirmative sword to prevent the enforcement of the real estate contract, the sale of property for much less than its market value, you should get a lawsuit on file quickly, showing the grounds for your grandfather's incapacity. As soon as the lawsuit is filed, you can file a "Notice of Action Pending," commonly referred to by the latin "Lis Pendens" and then have the Lis Pendens recorded with the County Recorder in which the property is located. Once that Lis Pendens is recorded, it acts as a "cloud" on the title to the property, or a defect in the ability to show true ownership. Because of that cloud, the misrepresenting real estate agent won't be able to get title insurance, and without title insurance, won't be able to get a loan to buy the property. That will give you time to have the lawsuit heard without worrying that the property will be sold out from under your grandfather before you can do anything about it.

I hope that is of some assistance. If you'd like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to call me at your convenience.

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Answered on 12/04/05, 1:24 am
Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

Re: Can contract signed by ill and feebleminded be nullified?

I disagree with the previous answers. First, you can't sue. You lack standing. You aren't an heir; living persons don't have heirs, they only have prospective heirs.

Second, California courts are very reluctant to find aged persons, even those with diminished memory or reasoning capacity or poor judgment, incapable of contracting.

I would recommend seeing a lawyer that handles a lot of elder abuse and conservatorship matters. It's possible that you can convince a judge that the old man needs a conservator, and possibly that you should be it. This isn't simple, but a specialist attorney can put you on the right track. The fraud angle is somewhat promising; a contract induced in reliance upon the other's supposed expertise as a licensed professional is likely to be found fraudulent and could be set aside in a lawsuit brought by the grandfather hmself, or by a conservator, but not by one who has only an expectancy of an inheritance.

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Answered on 12/04/05, 3:34 am
Scott Schomer Schomer Law Group

Re: Can contract signed by ill and feebleminded be nullified?

It depends on your grandfather's condition, the type and nature of the fraudulent reprentations and his (or possibly your) tolerance for risk. Generally, the court will not relieve someone from a poor business decision. But if that decision was made in based on fraud, or with a self-dealing fiduciary, you may be able to get it unwound. There is also a question as to whether your grandfather had the ability or capacity to contract. If he didn't, you may need to place him under a conservatorship.

We have lots of experience with elder abuse and fraudulent real estate transactions. Please give us a call if we can be of assistance.

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Answered on 12/05/05, 11:06 am

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