Saratoga County Surrogate’s Court has issued a decision in the Matter of the Estate of Antoinette M. Murray 853N.Y.S.2d 680 which dismissed objections based upon lack of capacity and undue influence even though evidence indicated that the decedent had suffered from dementia. Significantly, this will was executed under the supervision of the attorney-drafter and its witnesses attested that the testator understood the consequences of executing the will, knew the nature and extent of the property being disposed of and knew the persons who were the natural objects of her bounty, and her relationship to them. What complicated things here was that a neurologist issued a report that she had suffered from dementia .
The objectant who claims undue influence or lack of capacity has the burden of proving his or her position. In this case, objectants offered medical records and depositions from various witnesses including physicians. The problem here was while this evidence indicated that the decedent was indeed prone to episodes of confusion and forgetfulness at a time contemporaneous with the making of her will, her dementia was not diagnosed until April, 2003 which was a full year after she made her will. The court went on to opine that "proof that decedent suffered from old age and chronic , progressive senile dementia when the will was executed is not inconsistent with testamentary capacity". In addition, the court found that the objectants failed to prove that the testator "was actually constrained to act against her will and desire by identifying motive, opportunity, and acts allegedly constituting influence, as well as when and where such acts occurred."