The Second Department of New York’s Appellate Division has affirmed a decision of Suffolk County Surrogate John M. Czygier Jr. which refused to admit a codicil to probate because of undue influence.In the Matter of Emilio Pelegrino 817 N.Y.S.2d 121 (A.D. 2 Dept 2006), a second codicil to an 84 year old’s will disinherited his grandson in place of his sister-in-law who was also the proponent of the will.
The decedent was in extremely poor health when he made his codicil. When the codicil was executed,he was hospitalized with a variety of ailments including prostate cancer, renal failure, hypertension, diabetes and two strokes. He died just two months later.
The Surrogate determined that the sister-in-law had engaged in a calculated course of conduct designed to sway the decedent into changing his testamentary dispositions. The court found that the grandson who was disinherited had previously enjoyed a close and loving relationship with the decedent. The court therefore found that there was a"subtle , but pervasive, form of coercion and influence, by which the (proponent) overwhelmed and manipulated the decedent ‘s volition to advance her own interests."