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Court Rules on Will Contest Between Close Friends


This is a will contest involving not relatives but unrelated parties. The case stemmed from the will submitted for probate. The will that was executed by the decedent gave a very substantial amount to an alleged very close friend. Prior to this, several wills were also executed by the decedent and each time, the share of that special friend grew bigger in the will. The decedent came from a wealthy family and inherited a lot of money and businesses together with his two brothers. The business that they inherited was managed by his brother while the decedent did not want to venture in business and just enjoyed the share that he has in the family business managed by his brother. The other brother of the decedent was an invalid and therefore could not join in the management of the business and also relied on the other brother for the management of the affairs of the said business.

While alive, the decedent found a person who became his very close friend and confidant. They lived together, toured together, lived a lavish lifestyle together all at the expense of the decedent. Several business ventures were started at the behest of the special friend using the money of the decedent but none of the said business made money. During the course of the lifetime of the decedent when they were together, the special friend controlled the affairs of the decedent and made decisions apparently with the permission of the decedent.

A New York Probate Lawyer said the special friend during this time tried to be close to the family of the decedent with the brother in particular who manages the business but to no avail. He was not able to earn the good graces of the brothers of the decedent and this disappointed him as evidenced by letters that he made to the decedent and presented to the court during the proceedings.

When the will was presented to the court for settlement of the estate of the decedent, it was opposed by the brothers of the latter on the ground that the will is dubious with its content having been changed several times to favour the appellant. There were allegations that the special friend had a hand in its writing considering that he had allegedly complete control of the affairs of the decedent while alive. This allegation was bolstered by the testimonies of their employees who were able to make that impression while they were working for the decedent and the said special friend. Long Island Probate Lawyers said that they testified that the special friend was the one who directed the affairs of the house as well as the business of the decedent.

The special friend who is the appellant in this case, denied any hand in the affairs of the business of the decedent particular with regards to the making of the will. He even denied that the existence of the last will purportedly executed by the decedent came to his knowledge only when it was presented for probate in the lower court. Despite the claims of the herein appellant, two of the juries ruled that there was undue influence hence the proceedings for estate administration was stopped. The special friend appealed and a divided appellate court reversed the order of the lower court and ordered a new trial.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the appellant claimed that there was no clear proof for the existence of undue influence on his part and that the will is in order. The higher court looked at the estate litigation from all possible angles, all the circumstances of the relationship between the appellant and decedent, the testimonies given by both parties, as well as the documentary evidence presented, the court ruled that there was indeed undue influence exercised by the appellant over the decedent . New York City Probate Lawyers reported that the decree denying probate of the will by the lower court is affirmed.

The construction of a will needs to be done by an skilled attorney to make sure that it is in order. When the will is presented in court, there is also a need to be assisted by legal counsel. These matters are unavoidable and almost always come sooner or later. Stephen Bilkins and Associates have lawyers who can help in matters of wills and other property settlements. Call them and know your rights.

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