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Medical evidence not sufficient to show lack of capacity. Matter of Estate of Paul Tucker, 2020 NY Slip Op 31604(U) (N.Y. Sur. Ct. 2020)


Lack of capacity to make a will in New York refers to a situation where the testator (the person making the will) does not have the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of his or her actions when executing the will. In order to have the capacity to make a will in New York, the testator must have a general understanding of the nature and extent of his or her property, the natural objects of his or her bounty, and the effect of executing the will. Lack of capacity may result from a variety of factors, including mental illness, dementia, or other conditions that affect cognitive functioning.

In a will contest in New York, medical evidence can be used to prove that the testator lacked the capacity to execute the will. This may involve presenting medical records, expert testimony from treating physicians, or other evidence to establish the testator’s mental state at the time the will was executed. However, just like with any evidence, the court will determine whether it is sufficient.

In Matter of Estate of Paul Tucker, the decedent, Paul Tucker, had executed a will in 2016, leaving his entire estate to his wife, Elizabeth Tucker. However, after his death in 2018, his daughter from a previous marriage, Sandra Tucker, filed a petition to contest the will, alleging that her father lacked the capacity to execute the will and that he was unduly influenced by his wife.

The court held a trial to determine the validity of the will and the allegations made by Sandra Tucker. During the trial, the court heard testimony from several witnesses, including medical experts who had treated Paul Tucker during his lifetime, and family members who had knowledge of his mental state and the circumstances surrounding the execution of the will.

The court ultimately found that Paul Tucker had the capacity to execute the will and that he was not unduly influenced by his wife. The court cited several factors in support of its decision, including the fact that the will was executed in the presence of two witnesses who testified that Paul Tucker appeared to be of sound mind and understood the nature and extent of his property.

The court also noted that the medical evidence presented by Sandra Tucker was not persuasive, as the doctors who testified had not examined Paul Tucker at the time the will was executed and had based their opinions on incomplete or inaccurate information.

Additionally, the court found that there was no evidence of undue influence by Elizabeth Tucker. The court noted that Sandra Tucker had not presented any evidence to suggest that her stepmother had exerted any improper influence over Paul Tucker or had taken advantage of his alleged mental incapacity to obtain a favorable disposition of his estate.

The court’s decision in Matter of Estate of Paul Tucker highlights the importance of having a valid will and the need to ensure that the testator has the capacity to execute the will and is not unduly influenced by others. In this case, the court carefully considered the evidence presented and ultimately found that the will was valid and reflected the decedent’s true intentions.

The case also demonstrates the challenges that can arise in will contests, as family members may have competing interests and may be motivated to challenge the validity of a will in order to obtain a larger share of the estate. It is therefore essential to have an experienced attorney who can help draft a valid will and provide guidance on how to avoid potential challenges.

Furthermore, the court’s decision in Matter of Estate of Paul Tucker emphasizes the importance of presenting clear and convincing evidence to support any allegations of lack of capacity or undue influence. In this case, the court found that Sandra Tucker’s evidence was not sufficient to overcome the strong presumption of validity afforded to the will, and that she had not met her burden of proof to show that her father’s will was the product of undue influence or lack of capacity.

Overall, Tucker serves as a reminder of the importance of having a valid will, and the need to take steps to prevent potential challenges. By working with an experienced attorney and taking appropriate precautions to ensure the testator’s capacity and freedom from undue influence, individuals can help ensure that their wishes are carried out and their estates are distributed according to their intentions.



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