Matter of Estate of Donaldson

RICHMOND COUNTY
Trusts and Estates

New York Law Journal

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Surrogate Robert Gigante

Navallo moved for summary judgment declaring a trust and deed transfer executed by decedent void based on lack of mental capacity. Respondents, decedent's other children, opposed. Respondent Morelli contacted a lawyer to draft trust documents. The lawyer did not meet or speak with decedent, relying solely on Morelli's statements and a physician's letter indicating decedent was "in an acceptable mental status." The court rejected Navallo's claims of fraud or undue influence. But it noted questions arose regarding the trust instrument and decedent's comprehension of it. The doctor testified at his deposition that he did not believe decedent would be able to read and understand a sales contract. The lawyer, notified of the doctor's statements, contended he changed his mind regarding a belief that decedent was coherent and fully able to understand what she was signing. The court noted respondents failed to submit rebuttal evidence to the doctor's testimony, merely providing conclusory statements that same was not enough to defeat summary judgment. The court disagreed, finding decedent lacked the requisite mental capacity to execute the trust documents, deeming them void, and granting summary judgment.

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