Matter of De La Cruz v. De La Cruz concerns a dispute over the validity of a trust agreement. This case highlights the importance of ensuring that trust agreements are properly executed and that the parties to the agreement have the necessary capacity to enter into such agreements.
In Matter of De La Cruz v. De La Cruz, the case involves a dispute over the validity of a trust created by Maria De La Cruz, a wealthy New York City real estate investor. Ms. De La Cruz executed a trust agreement in 2012, which named her son, Pedro De La Cruz, as the trustee. The trust agreement provided that the trust assets would be distributed to Ms. De La Cruz’s two daughters upon her death. In 2013, Ms. De La Cruz executed a second trust agreement that revoked the first trust agreement and named Pedro De La Cruz and his wife, Jeanette De La Cruz, as the trustees. The second trust agreement also contained a provision that disinherited Ms. De La Cruz’s two daughters.
After Ms. De La Cruz’s death, her daughters filed a petition to set aside the second trust agreement, alleging that their mother lacked the necessary mental capacity to execute the agreement and that she was unduly influenced by Pedro De La Cruz and his wife. At trial, the daughters presented evidence to support their allegations of undue influence and lack of capacity. They presented testimony from several witnesses who had interacted with Ms. De La Cruz in the months leading up to the execution of the second trust agreement. The witnesses testified that Ms. De La Cruz was in poor physical health, suffering from various ailments and taking multiple medications. They also testified that Ms. De La Cruz was forgetful and confused, and that she often repeated herself or forgot what she had just said.
The daughters also presented testimony from a psychiatrist who had examined Ms. De La Cruz shortly before she executed the second trust agreement. The psychiatrist testified that Ms. De La Cruz had a number of cognitive impairments, including memory loss, disorientation, and confusion. The psychiatrist further testified that Ms. De La Cruz lacked the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of the trust agreement.
Pedro De La Cruz and his wife denied the allegations of undue influence and lack of capacity. They presented evidence to show that Ms. De La Cruz had executed the second trust agreement of her own free will and with full knowledge of its contents.
The lower court denied the daughters’ petition to set aside the second trust agreement, finding that there was insufficient evidence to support their allegations of undue influence and lack of capacity. The lower court found that Ms. De La Cruz had the necessary mental capacity to execute the trust agreement and that there was no evidence of undue influence. The lower court also found that Ms. De La Cruz had executed the trust agreement of her own free will and with full knowledge of its contents.
The daughters appealed the lower court’s decision to the Appellate Division. The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s decision. The court found that there was no evidence to support the daughters’ claim that Ms. De La Cruz lacked the capacity to execute the agreement. The court noted that Ms. De La Cruz had consulted with her attorney before executing the agreement, and that the attorney had determined that she had the requisite capacity.
The court also rejected the daughters’ claim of undue influence. The court found that the evidence did not support a finding that Mr. De La Cruz and his wife had exerted undue influence over Ms. De La Cruz. The court noted that Ms. De La Cruz had a long-standing and close relationship with her son, and that she had expressed her desire to disinherit her daughters to her attorney prior to executing the second trust agreement.
Overall, the court held that the daughters had failed to meet their burden of proof to establish either lack of capacity or undue influence, and therefore the second trust agreement was valid and enforceable.
Matter of De La Cruz v. De La Cruz highlights the challenges and complexities involved in trust disputes involving allegations of lack of capacity and undue influence. This case underscores the importance of having a skilled New York trust lawyer to navigate these complex issues and to ensure that the settlor’s true wishes and intentions are carried out.