Estate of Lakatosh

The Facts

  • Roger Jacobs befriended T  in March 1988.
  • At the time, T was in her 70s and lived alone with the occasional visit from her sister
  • Jacobs visited T at least once, if not 2-3 times per day
  • Jacobs helped T around the house and drove her to various errands and appointments
  • T came to depend on Jacobs
  • In Nov. 1988, T executed a power of attorney to Jacobs and a new will that left all but $1,000 of her $268,000 estate to Jacobs
  • Lawyer was Jacobs’ cousin
  • Jacobs used approx. $129,000 of T’s money for his own or others benefit from Sept. 1988 to June 1990.
  • Jacobs had given $72,000 to a friend of his who T did not even know
  • In June 1990, T lived in squalor and filth and many of her payments had not been made
  • T executed a general revocation of POA in June 1990
  • T died on Sept. 4, 1993.

Procedural History

  • TC put burden on Jacob’s to rebut presumption of undue influence.
  • TC found for P

The Issue

  • With whom does the burden of proving/disproving undue influence lie?

The Rule

  • When the proponent of a will proves that the formalities of execution have been followed, a contestant who claims that there has been undue influence has the burden of proof.
  • The burden of proof may be shifted so as to require the proponent to disprove undue influence.
  • To do so, the contestant must prove by clear and convincing evidence
  • That there was a confidential relationship
  • That the person enjoying such relationship received the bulk of the estate and
  • That the decedent’s intellect was weakened

The Holding/Disposition

  • Can be shifted in certain circumstances
  • D did not meet burden
  • TC affirmed

Court’s Reasoning

  • Burden shifting elements were met
  • POA was sufficient in and of itself to show a confidential relationship existed

Jacobs must show absence of undue influence by clear and convincing evidence

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