The decedent, Ms. DD, died on February 24, 2008, at the age of 92, leaving a duly executed will dated May 14, 1985. At the time of the decedent’s death, all legatees mentioned in the will had predeceased her, and any right to her estate under the will had passed to two nephews who lived in Nevada, and five grandnieces and grandnephews.
The decedent lived alone in her house in Bayside, Queens until December 2007 (hereinafter the Bayside house). The respondent, Ms. BB, lived in a nearby house on the same street. The parties stipulated that, as of 2007, Ms. BB had performed “many recurring household tasks” for the decedent, “including cooking, shopping, transportation, and bathing; and Ms. BB had obtained and kept a key to Ms. DD’s house where she frequently slept overnight.” Another neighbor also had a key and would also check in on the decedent once a day.
In December 2007 the decedent was hospitalized with a dislocated shoulder, and was discharged on January 4, 2008, to a rehabilitation facility. On or about January 9, 2008, while she was at the rehabilitation facility, the decedent consulted with an attorney, who was asked by Ms. BB to meet the decedent at the facility. The attorney had not previously dealt with either the decedent or Ms. BB. According to the attorney, the decedent told him that she wanted to give her house to Ms. BB, and if Ms. BB predeceased her, to Ms. BB’s daughter. The attorney informed the decedent that there were three ways to accomplish that end: deeding the property to Ms. BB, changing her will, or setting up a trust. The decedent said that she preferred to set up a trust, because she would retain ownership of her house and, upon her death, Ms. BB would avoid probate costs. The attorney asked the decedent about family, and she informed him that her husband died in 1984, she had no children, and she had very little contact with her family.