California probate code section 850
Probate Code section 850, subdivision (a)(2)(D), allows the personal representative of an estate to file a petition in a probate proceeding when a third party is alleged to have possession of, or hold title to, property the personal representative claims belongs to the estate.
Section 850 "is intended to operate as a mechanism for pursuing 'claims, causes of action, or matters that are normally raised in a civil action to the extent that the matters are related factually to the subject matter of a petition filed under this part 19 governing conveyance or transfer of property claimed to belong to the decedent or another person.' ( 855.)" (Estate of Myers (2006) 139 Cal.App.4th 434, 440.)
Section 859 provides for damages in the case of the wrongful taking of estate property: "If a court finds that a person has in bad faith wrongfully taken, concealed, or disposed of property belonging to the estate of a decedent, conservatee, minor, or trust, the person shall be liable for twice the value of the property recovered by an action under this part." This "double damages" provision is "punitive in nature." (Estate of Young (2008) 160 Cal.App.4th 62, 88.)
As with all sufficiency of the evidence challenges, we must view the record in the light most favorable to the prevailing party, resolving all inferences in support of the judgment, to determine if there is substantial evidence, contradicted or uncontradicted, to support the probate court's findings. (Estate of Leslie (1984) 37 Cal.3d 186, 201.)
"Substantial evidence" is evidence "'of ponderable legal significance, . . . reasonable in nature, credible, and of solid value.'" (Bowers v. Bernards (1984) 150 Cal.App.3d 870, 873.)
"While substantial evidence may consist of inferences, such inferences must be 'a product of logic and reason' and 'must rest on the evidence' ; inferences that are the result of mere speculation or conjecture cannot support a finding." (Kuhn v. Department of General Services (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 1627, 1633.)