Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
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I am sorry to hear of your loss.
A contract does not need to be written in order to be enforceable.
A verbal contract is equally enforceable - the problem is that the plaintiff has the burden to prove the contract.
Since this involves money, and you mentioned it was a large sum, presumably there is some documentation of the transfer (i.e. canceled check).
This would help you if you choose to bring a breach of contract lawsuit.
Here is a link to the civil court system in California.http://www.courts.ca.gov/superiorcourts.htm
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If you were interested in pursuing this via the court system, please post that information here and I will get you the necessary forms. Thanks!