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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Woman accused of self-dealing disputes jury's decision

Our readers in Minnesota who follow this blog probably know that if a family member or other rightful heir to an estate believes that a loved one's will is invalid or otherwise has concerns about the probate process can initiate a will contest, seek to have a personal representative removed or ask a court for other appropriate relief.

However, in cases involving outright self-dealing, family members may have other remedies available to them. As a case in point, in another state, a woman recently has found herself possibly having to come up with over $500,000 in cash that her deceased husband purportedly gave to her and to her children.

After a trial, a jury determined that the woman had defrauded her stepsons, children of her husband from a prior marriage, and also had converted, or stolem, the money. The jury also decided that the woman had unduly influenced her husband to give the money away, although he was ordinarily very conservative with his money. The woman maintains that she did nothing wrong, claiming instead that her husband gave the money to them of his own free will.

This case illustrates that in Minnesota, probate litigation may not just center on a will or the actions of a person after a death. Oftentimes, relatives are accused, rightly or wrongly, of self-dealing by encouraging a wealth relative or spouse to give large gifts that he or she otherwise would not have given. For those who have been wronged because of behavior like this, legal remedies above and beyond a will contest or probate proceeding may be available.

Families who feel that a person has taken advantage of a loved one by improperly soliciting gifts may consider alleging undue influence or even fraud to set aside the gift and to demand repayment of any money received by the person. Moreover, those who have been wrongly accused of such behavior can also use an experienced probate litigation attorney to mount an effective defense.

Source: Macomb Daily, "Wife in Macomb probate battle responds to lopsided verdict," Jamie Cook, March 29, 2014

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