Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A failed motion to dismiss the defense of undue influence.

Practice point:  The Appellate Division affirmed the denial of the motion in this action where petitioner, the executor of decedent's will, sought permission to pay himself a sum that decedent allegedly owed him. The debt is allegedly evidenced by a promissory note that decedent executed 10 days before he died.  The Appellate Division found that the record contains evidence that payment would benefit petitioner while rendering the estate insolvent, a result that would have been contrary to the decedent's estate plan. Moreover, the note and accompanying letter of instruction were prepared by petitioner's counsel as opposed to the decedent's own estate planning counsel. These factors, combined with the evidence of the decedent's deteriorating health, suffice to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the note was the product of undue influence.

Student note:  The elements of undue influence are motive, opportunity, and the actual exercise of that undue influence.  As direct proof of undue influence is rare, its elements may be established by circumstantial evidence.

Case:  Matter of Kotick v. Shvachko, NY Slip Op 06011 (1st Dept. 2015)

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow's issue: A sertlement is approved nunc pro tunc.