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Sibling Claims Decedent was a Victim of Undue Influence


An 87 year old bachelor died on May 12, 1992. He had an estate that was worth $7,000,000. He left his estate to his sister, his brother and the two children of his brother who died before him. He also named the three children of his sister as his heirs. The sister was the named executor in the bachelor’s will.

She filed a petition for probate but this probate was opposed by the bachelor’s brother and his nephews. During the pendency of the probate proceedings, the sister died and in her own will, she named her son as the executor of her will and the executor of her bachelor brother’s will. The Surrogate Court granted letters testamentary to the nephew of the bachelor.

The crux of the issue in the probate proceedings is the testamentary capacity of the bachelor at the time of the execution of the will and whether or not undue influence was exerted by his sister so that he executed the will which is now being presented for probate.

The proof of the brother and nephews of the bachelor to prove the lack of testamentary capacity is that sometime between 1987 and 1988 the bachelor let himself go and refused to bathe regularly. He was unkempt. He had a stroke in 1989 and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A New York Probate Lawyer said it was after this diagnosis, in 1990 that the bachelor established a bank trust for his sister and her three children amounting to $1,500,000. Later that year, the bachelor was found wandering in the bus terminal and later, he was found walking in front of his apartment building wearing nothing but his underpants. He was placed in a nursing home and in 1991 he was hospitalized and found to be suffering from dementia and brain atrophy. He later died in a nursing home in California in 1992.

The Surrogate Court refused the probate of the decedent’s will which was executed in 1988. The Court found that the bachelor at the time he executed the will did not understand that he was making a will; he was unaware of the nature and extent of his properties; nor was he aware of the objects of his generosity.

The denial of probate was appealed by the executor of the estate of the bachelor but the order of the surrogate court denying probate was upheld. A Staten Island Probate Lawyer said the only question now before the Surrogate Court is whether or not the trusts executed by the bachelor in favor of his deceased sister and her children as well as the monetary gifts he gave them at or around the same time of the execution of the will should also be nullified because of lack of capacity to contract.

The Surrogate Court found because of the Alzheimer’s disease and the dementia and the brain atrophy, it can safely be concluded that just as the bachelor had no testamentary capacity, he also had no capacity at that time to establish the trusts.

There was evidence to prove that at the time of the mental incapacity of the bachelor, the trusts and gifts were established by the bachelor at the behest and instigation of his sister who was also his beneficiary and heir as well as executor.

In accordance with these findings, the son of the bachelor’s sister, who was granted letters testamentary, is now called upon to render an accounting of the estate of the bachelor which was under his administration. Brooklyn Probate Lawyers said he is required to return the trusts as well as the earnings of the trusts and the gifts he and his siblings received from the bachelor.

A testator who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia has no testamentary capacity. You must consult a King’s County Will Contest lawyer if you wish to bring an action to object to the probate of a will. A King’s County Will Contest attorney can assist you to bring a will contest action. The King’s County Will contest attorneys from Stephen Bilkis and Associates can help you present evidence of lack of testamentary capacity of the testator. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates and confer with their King’s County Will Contest Lawyers at any of their offices in King’s County.

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