The Third Department determined Supreme Court properly ruled that petitioners had not demonstrated, as a matter of law, the existence of a confidential relationship between the decedent and respondent. Where a confidential relationship is demonstrated, the stronger party has the burden of showing by clear and convinciing evidence that a particular transaction from which the stronger party benefitted was not the result of undue influence. The court explained the operative criteria for a confidential relationship:
A confidential relationship is one that is “of such a character as to render it certain that [the parties] do not deal on terms of equality” … . Such inequality may occur from either one party’s “superior knowledge of the matter derived from a fiduciary relation, or from an overmastering influence” or from the other’s “weakness, dependence, or trust justifiably reposed” on the stronger party … .
The limited issue presented on this appeal is whether Supreme Court erred when it declined to find, as a matter of law, that there was a confidential relationship between respondent and decedent. The basis for petitioners’ claim that such a relationship existed was, in part, the familial relationship between respondent and decedent. A familial relationship, however, is not necessarily a confidential relationship … . Importantly, the existence of a confidential relationship is ordinarily a factual determination based upon “evidence of other facts or circumstances showing inequality or controlling influence”… . Matter of Bonczyk v Williams, 2014 NY Slip Op 05231, 3rd Dept 7-10-14