Can a husband’s fourth spouse be guilty of unduly influencing him to prepare a Will favoring her over the husband’s children from an earlier marriage?
The answer is emphatically yes! In Blinn v. Carlman, 159 So. 3d 390 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) decided by Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal in 2015, the appellate court upheld the trial judge’s ruling declaring the husband’s 2008 Will void as a result of his fourth spouse’s undue influence. The Will had been prepared by a lawyer who had not previously represented the couple, and the wife did all the talking. The attorney who prepared the Will had no knowledge of the husband’s prior Wills. The 2008 Will completely changed the husband’s prior estate plan to favor his fourth wife when a prior Will in 2006 left everything to his daughter from an earlier marriage.
The appellate court found there was substantial competent evidence at trial that the husband’s mental health suffered from progressive dementia and that a court determined him to be totally incapacitated in 2011. According to the appellate court, both before and during their marriage in 2007, the fourth spouse preyed on her husband’s paranoia and mental infirmity to alienate him from his two children and their families who had previously enjoyed a close and loving relationship with their father. She told her husband that his daughter was stealing from her without any evidence of the daughter’s wrongdoing. In 2008, the spouse wrote a letter to the husband’s life insurance company requesting that the beneficiary be changed from his daughter to her. She also contacted an attorney to prepare the 2008 Will giving him drafting instructions. On the basis of this evidence, the appellate court upheld the trial judge’s order determining the 2008 Will to be void.
Crary Buchanan, P.A. has several attorneys experienced in probate and trust litigation. Please call them if you have any questions in this practice area.
James L.S. Bowdish, Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney
Member of Probate and Trust Litigation Committee of the Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar