Family Members Failed to Raise a Question of Fact About Whether Care-Provider Exercised Undue Influence Over Decedent
The Third Department determined Surrogate’s Court properly granted summary judgment dismissing the objections and admitting the will to probate. The respondents failed to raise a question of fact about whether the decedent’s care-provider had exercised undue influence over the decedent. The care-provider, by the terms of the will, was allowed to live in decedent’s home rent-free for a designated period after decedent’s death. The rest of decedent’s estate went to organizations decedent was affiliated with, nothing was allotted to respondent family members:
To establish undue influence, respondents were required to demonstrate that decedent “was actually constrained to act against [her] own free will and desire by identifying the motive, opportunity and acts allegedly constituting the influence, as well as when and where such acts occurred” … . The influence asserted must rise to the level of “a moral coercion” …, and “[m]ere speculation and conclusory allegations, without specificity as to precisely where and when the influence was actually exerted, are insufficient to raise an issue of fact” … .
Here, even assuming that respondents’ proof was sufficient to establish that [the care-provider] had motive and opportunity to influence decedent’s testamentary dispositions, respondents failed to demonstrate that House actually exercised undue influence with respect to the distribution of decedent’s assets. By all accounts, decedent was a very intelligent, private and strongwilled woman who “ran her life the way she wanted to run it.” Matter of Stafford…, 516429, 3rd Dept 11-27-13