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Legal Writing

This Guide assists first-year law students with the CREAC format used in legal writing.

Case Explanation or Case Illustration


Intent to adopt may be demonstrated by part performance or contemplation of adoption that was never carried out. In Rivolo, the respondent was taken in by the decedent and his wife. In re Rivolo Estate, 15 Cal. Rptr. 268 (Ct. App. 1961). The decedent always referred to the respondent as his “daughter” or “legally adopted daughter.” Id. at 268. On more than one occasion, the respondent recalled this decedent going down to the court house and showing her documentation that she was legally adopted. Id. at 270. The decedent told the respondent on numerous occasions that she was his legally adopted daughter and that everything would go to her. Id. at 268. Shortly before the decedent’s death, it was found that no formal adoption had taken place. Id. at 270. With these facts, the California Supreme Court held that the record established the existence of a contract of adoption by clear, convincing and unequivocal evidence and that at all times the decedent and his wife regarded and treated the respondent as their adopted daughter and she performed her duties as their daughter. Id. at 271.



  1. Thesis sentence: the legal writer uses the thesis statement to address only a single principle of law illustrated by the precedent case (and uses imprecise language in doing so), when there are, in fact, two principles that the case illustrates.
  2. Court holding: the legal writer never states the holding as it relates to the issue or question presented.
  3. Relevant facts: the legal writer overlooks relevant facts that address familial relationship, and presents the intent to adopt facts in an unclear and imprecise manner.
  4. Hierarchy of authority: the legal writer misidentifies the court.
  5. Court reasoning: the legal writer muddies the court's reasoning by forgetting to address intent to adopt, and by introducing the familial relationship principle without first using the thesis statement to introduce it and providing relevant facts to support it.



A foster parent demonstrates an intent to adopt by explicitly promising to do so and the child shows a familial relationship when she performs services normally associated with a parent and child. For example, in Rivolo's Estate, the court held the claimant was entitled to inherit as the equitably adopted child since the deceased had taken her in as a young girl and raised her as though she was his daughter.  In re Rivolo's Estate, 15 Cal. Rptr. 268-69, 271 (Ct. App. 1961).  In the presence of the claimant’s grandmother, the claimant’s uncle told her he was going to adopt her. Id. at 268.  He went to the courthouse several times with the claimant to take out letters of guardianship. Id. During one of those visits, the claimant’s uncle told her that he had just legally adopted her, and pointed to some papers as the adoption papers. Id.  Over the next ten years, the uncle always introduced the claimant to others and addressed her as his daughter.  Id. at 269.  Moreover, she helped with his retail business and took care of him after he had been injured. Id. at 269-70.  Shortly before the uncle's death, the claimant learned that he had actually never formally adopted her. Id.  Regardless, the court reasoned she was his equitably adopted child because she had fully performed duties associated with being a daughter and the uncle had continually promised to adopt her and consistently presented her as his daughter.  Id. at 271.



  1. The thesis sentence clearly and concisely states the legal principle of law that the subsequent case explains or illustrates (red sentence)
  2. The court's holding clearly and concisely states the decision of the court as to the issue or question presented (green sentence)
  3. The relevant facts support the thesis statement and the court's reasoning, and are stated precisely and concisely (blue sentences)
  4. The court's reasoning clearly and concisely states the determinative facts that informed the court's holding (purple sentence)