In re Kaufman’s Will

The Facts

  • T moved away from Washington to NYC in 1948
  • Met Weiss who became T’s financial consultant
  • Weiss moved into T’s apartment
  • T bought expensive townhouse in 1951 and gave Weiss the top floor as an office
  • Weiss ran the household
  • Acted like a couple
  • Weiss had a law degree and T gave Weiss complete confidence and trust
  • Weiss took charge of T’s accounts and investments as if they belonged to both of them
  • T died unexpectedly in 1959
  • Starting in 1951, T made will sin successive years, each yea giving a greater percentage to Weiss
  • The will drafted in 1958 gave almost all T’s property to Weiss
  • A letter to T’s family, signed by T in 1951, was passed along to accompany each successive will.
  • Was a “coming out of the closet at death” letter
  • Letter espoused Weiss’ services and indispensability to T
  • In 1952, T gave Weiss exclusive power over T’s body upon death and the power to make medical decisions should T be incapacitated
  • Family disliked Weiss and his relationship w/ T

Procedural History

  • Joel, T’s brother, moved to have the 1958 will set aside on the grounds of undue influence
  • 2 jury trials, both found undue influence

The Issue

  • Whether the instrument offered for probate was the free, untrammeled and intelligent expression of the wishes and intentions of testator

The Holding/Disposition

  • No, affirmed

Court’s Reasoning

  • In deposition, Weiss denied homosexual relationship and was never cross-examined
  • Found that the undue influence began prior to 1951, tainting all of the prior wills and gifts to Walter
  • Letter deemed to be evidence of complete domination by Weiss

T was easily pliable and taken advantage of

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