So when is Law and out of order? Even if someone creating a Will has testamentary capacity, a document can still be set aside as invalid if undue influence exists as a New Hampshire police officer recently learned. Sgt. Aaron Goodwin was poised to inherit a $2.7 million dollar estate from an elderly woman he befriended while on the job.
Questions of whether Goodwin exerted undue influence on a woman, who died at age 93, to revise her will before she died in December 2012 is at the heart of a probate dispute in 7th Circuit-Probate Division-Dover, New Hampshire. Prior to the revisions, the Decedent’s Will contained substantial bequests to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Shriners’ Hospital for Children. These beneficiaries contested the revised will in probate court after their portions of the estate were significantly downscaled.
A task force was commenced to review the matter. The task force came about as a result of the public outcry by residents who say they believe the young officer took advantage of the Decedent, who lived alone and suffered from dementia. The task force found that “In our opinion, after learning of [the Decedent’s] expressed intent, Sgt. Goodwin should have unequivocally and continually refused even the possibility of the bequest,” the report stated. “His immediate supervisor should have been notified of Mrs. Webber’s stated intent and his chain of command should have advised him to the applicability of (the rule on gifts).”
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