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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Heir charges church order with coercing gift from ailing dad

Leaving a legacy of faith may be on the mind of many Twin Cities residents. A gift in recognition of one's spiritual or religious affiliations can provide a sense of personal fulfillment in return for the personal support a faith-based organization provides over a lifetime. For one man, though, his father's generous gift to a religious organization now appears to be more the result of undue influence than of faith rightly earned.

In his capacity as executor of his father's estate, Paul Chu has filed suit against the Roman Catholic order known as the Legion of Christ and is demanding that the order return more than $1 million his father donated from his retirement funds.

The man claims that the religious order took advantage of his father's failing health to coerce him into making the sizable donation at a time during which the founder of the order faced disgrace over allegations of sexual abuse and fathering illegitimate children. The man says that his father would never have donated to the order if he had known about the scandalous accusations.

Although the man continues to profess devotion to the Catholic church, his lawsuit accuses the troubled order of employing predatory tactics to convince his father into naming the order as an estate beneficiary. In addition to the return of his father's donations, the disgruntled heir has asked the court to award another $10 million in punitive damages.

Because the man's father died in 2009, it may be challenging for the court to assess his true intent and his understanding of the order's fall from grace. The son may need to rely heavily on the probate litigation experience of his attorney to succeed in his lawsuit.

Source: Portland Press Herald, "Connecticut man sues Legion of Christ," Nov. 17, 2012

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