By Miles T. Martindale

         Meridian Law recently successfully defended a will contest and challenge to a payable-on-death bank account designation. Meridian represented the daughter and primary caregiver of the decedent (who suffered from numerous chronic health conditions) and was named as the sole payable-on-death (“POD”) beneficiary on multiple bank accounts and who received more favorable treatment under the decedent’s second will. Her brother objected and argued that the decedent lacked capacity at the time of execution of the second will and the POD forms. The Probate Court appointed an administrator ad litem to investigate whether the POD account funds paid to the daughter should be recovered by the Estate. The dispute regarding the POD account and the validity of the second will revolved around whether the decedent had the capacity to name his POD beneficiary and update his will several months prior to his death. Ultimately, the administrator ad litem filed a Petition to Recover Assets of the Estate in an attempt to recover the funds from the POD accounts for the benefit of the Estate.

            When the administrator ad litem and the sibling’s attorney took the depositions of two of the decedent’s medical providers, it became apparent that although decedent was chronically ill and getting worse over time, they could not say he did not know who his heirs were or ever lost his orientation to self. One of decedent’s providers stated that he had no indication that the decedent did not know the extent of his property or how it should be disposed of. Based on their testimony, Meridian moved for summary judgment on behalf of its client and argued there was no evidence that the decedent lacked capacity at the moment he changed the POD form or executed his second will. Meridian emphasized that his providers were allowing the decedent to make his own medical decisions until shortly before his death. Ultimately, the trial court agreed and held: “It was apparent that the decedent was seriously and chronically ill and suffering from confusion and memory loss in his old age; however, there was no indication that as of December 2014 the decedent did not know: the extent of his property; disposition of his property; his heirs; or his self. Therefore, the court is of the opinion that reasonable minds could not justifiably reach a different conclusion on whether the decedent possessed the required mental capacity required to execute a contract based on the evidence at hand.” (emphasis added)

            This decision was a significant victory for Meridian’s client, allowing her to retain the funds she received from the POD accounts and the property she received under his second will.

            Meridian cannot guarantee that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters. Results may vary based on the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client's case.

            If you need assistance with a probate matter or will contest, please contact Meridian Law, PLLC at (615) 229-7499.