Frank Santoro: The Court of Appeals Takes a Look at an Undue Influence Claim from a Non-Jury Trial (January 24, 2022)

Frank Santoro, of Farrell Fritz Attorneys, has mad available for download his article, “The Court of Appeals Takes a Look at an Undue Influence Claim from a Non-Jury Trial”, published on the New York State Litigation Blog. The abstract is as follows:

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced litigants to wrestle with the dilemma of waiting for a jury trial or moving forward more expeditiously by way of a bench trial.  Recently, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, and the Court of Appeals passed on the issue of undue influence arising out of a Surrogate’s Court bench trial.

In Matter of Kotsones, following a non-jury trial, the Surrogate’s Court denied a decedent’s will probate, and granted a petition to invalidate the decedent’s lifetime trust and certain lifetime real estate transactions.  The Surrogate’s Court determined that the will, trust, and real estate transactions, all part of the decedent’s estate plan, were the product of undue influence.  The Appellate Division reversed and the Court of Appeals affirmed.  The case provides a helpful summary of the law applicable to claims of undue influence, and New York appeals courts’ power on appeals from non-jury trials.

The case turned in large part on the issue of whether the alleged undue influencers were in a confidential relationship with the decedent.  The Appellate Division reiterated the well-settled rule that where a confidential relationship exists between the beneficiary and the decedent, an inference of undue influence will arise, and require the beneficiary to come forward with an explanation of the circumstances of the transaction, to demonstrate that it was fair and free from undue influence.

To see the full article, click: “The Court of Appeals Takes a Look at an Undue Influence Claim from a Non-Jury Trial”

Posted by Marin Larkin, Associate Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal.

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