Massachusetts residents may have heard of an ongoing probate dispute pending in a neighboring state. When an elderly woman died in Dec. 2012, it was discovered that she had left a substantial amount of her assets to a police officer she had developed a relationship with after he answered a call about an intruder at her home. Now, objections have been filed in the woman’s probate regarding the $1.8 million in assets it is estimated were left to him. The officer has been accused of unduly influencing the elderly woman, causing her to leave him the assets, but those accusations were determined to be unfounded in one investigation.
Under a will and trust executed by the woman in 2009, several institutions were reportedly earmarked to inherit up to $500,000 each. She executed a new will and trust in 2012 that reduced those gifts to approximately $80,000 each. The officer is accused of taking the woman to several attorneys until one was willing to change her estate plan to leave him the aforementioned assets and reduce the gifts.
In 2010, the woman was diagnosed with dementia. The officer says that a doctor reported that his friend did show signs that she was cognitively impaired, but was still able to make sound decisions. However, it is contended that report also indicated that she was not capable of making business decisions and was “out there” on some days.
It remains to be seen whether the officer’s inheritance of the woman’s assets will be upheld by the New Hampshire court before which the proceedings are pending. Massachusetts residents have the right to make or change their estate planning documents so long as it can be shown they are capable of understanding what they are doing at the time the documents are executed. If sufficient evidence establishes that a person was unduly influenced in making a will, the document will likely be denied admission to probate.
Source: seacoastonline.com, Legal arguments filed in cop’s inheritance dispute, Elizabeth Dinan, Nov. 15, 2013