Blinn v. Clarman

Blinn v. Carmen, --- So.2d --- (Fla. 4th DCA 2015), 40 Fla. L. Weekly, D678b

In this decision, the Court affirmed a trial court's decision invalidating a will based on undue influence because substantial competent evidence supported the finding.  The facts of this case are familiar to anyone who has practiced in this area.  In 2007, the decedent married his fourth wife at age 82, at a time when his mental health had already begun to deteriorate and he already suffered from progressive dementia.  He ultimately changed his estate plan to leave everything to the wife.

While I always enjoy seeing an undue influence decision, this one falls squarely in line with the undue influence cases we are familiar with.  The wife's behavior was egregious-- not only did she successfully persuade her husband to abandon his prior estate plan (which left everything to his daughter) and instead leave everything to her, but she alienated him from his family, she aggressively convinced him that his daughter was destroying their family business, she herself changed the beneficiary on the decedent's life insurance policy from the daughter to herself, and while the decedent was hospitalized and diagnosed with severe dementia, attempted to have him execute a durable power of attorney in her favor.  The trial court found that if the wife were "so bold as to openly display such influence over [the decedent]," then the court could "reasonably infer that similar or greater influence was occurring in the dark during their marriage."

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