In what would seem to be a textbook case of undue influence, the children of the late Jim Carlen, former coach of the University of South Carolina football team who died at 79 have sued their father’s estate after a 2010 will left everything to his second wife Meredith. The Charlotte Observer emphasizes that "everything" meant just that. Not a nickel to the coach’s children or grandchildren. Not even a photograph or any of his sports memorabilia. They further charge that the latest will was written after their father suffered from "severe Alzheimer’s and dementia" and was contrary to a long established scheme of gifts and prior wills favoring all of his children and grandchildren. Although the estate is purportedly worth ten million dollars, his widow has tried to characterize the estate as being worth considerably less.
It would certainly seem as if the basic elements of undue influence exist here. A well-established testamentary scheme of a person whose capacity is noticeably diminished is altered by someone who has established himself or herself in a position not only of trust but also upon whom the testator must depend, in this instance nearly entirely. The one exerting the influence does so to the extent of substituting his or her own will for the free will of the testator who becomes unable to think freely and to make independent decisions in the disposition of assets.
Although your lawblogger must analyze a case such as this in the light of New York law , the situation in South Carolina does not seem markedly different. This fact pattern miserably fails the smell test. It would be hard to imagine an outcome that did not involve a finding of undue influence. It would seem that somewhere in South Carolina, winds of settlement should begin to blow.