Wall St. Journal: “Seven months before Melvin Simon died, the ailing shopping-mall magnate altered his $1 billion will during a three-hour meeting in Asherwood, his palatial home near Indianapolis. A financial adviser had to hold and guide his hand as he signed the revised document, according to court filings. Now that scene has become the center of a bitter estate struggle pitting Mr. Simon’s second wife, Bren Simon, whose inheritance was greatly increased by the new will, against his children from his first marriage.”
This reminds me of a case years ago involving a client of mine who was the sole heir of an Arizona woman who died. She had a multi-million dollar estate that was left to a woman who was essentially a stranger. The elderly woman had a stoke on Friday night while hospitalized. The next morning the medical staff examined her and wrote in her chart that she was comatose, deaf and blind. Shortly thereafter the prospective heir to the estate arrived in the hospital with a lawyer, notary public and a trust officer from the Valley National Bank. VNB was the trustee of the woman’s trust. The group left the woman’s hospital room with amendments to the woman’s will and trust that left everything to the stranger and cut out the blood heir completely.
As you might guess, the blood heir sued the stranger. In his deposition, the VNB trust officer testified that somebody in the room (I cannot remember who) put a pen in the woman’s hand and moved her hand to make a signature on the documents. The trust officer was referring to a “memorandum to the file” he made immediately after the incident. We asked him how long he had been a trust officer. My recollection was he answered “thirty years.” We asked him how many times he had made a memorandum to the file of a client. He said, “that was the only time.” Would you represent the stranger on a contingency?