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American Red Cross v. Estate of Haynsworth

708 So. 2d 602 (1998)

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American Red Cross v. Estate of Haynsworth

Florida District Court of Appeal

708 So. 2d 602 (1998)

Facts

John Haynsworth executed three wills before his death in December 1995. The February Will, executed in February 1993, left most of Haynsworth’s substantial estate to the American Red Cross, the United Way, and the Salvation Army (charities) (plaintiffs). Unbeknownst to Haynsworth, Ted Blum, the attorney who prepared the February Will, added a term granting himself 5 percent of the estate. In April 1993, Blum filed a petition to determine Haynsworth’s competency. Haynsworth’s niece, Lisa Haynsworth-Jones, petitioned to become Haynsworth’s guardian. Medical testimony at the competency hearing stated that Haynsworth was disoriented and suffered from organic brain syndrome. In May 1993, the probate judge declared Haynsworth incompetent and appointed Haynsworth’s niece as his guardian. In July 1993, Haynsworth executed a second will, the July Will, which reduced the bequests to the charities substantially and increased the bequests to Haynsworth’s niece and other relatives. In November 1993, Haynsworth executed his third and final will, the November Will. After Haynsworth’s death, the February Will was admitted to probate. Haynsworth’s niece filed a petition to probate the July Will and the November Will instead. At trial, the charities presented testimony from Haynsworth’s internist that Haynsworth suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Haynsworth’s niece presented evidence from two psychiatrists, who both testified Haynsworth executed the July Will during a lucid moment, but neither of whom had examined Haynsworth near the time he executed the July Will. The trial court admitted the July Will to probate, declaring that the February Will was invalid because of Blum’s undue influence and that Haynsworth was incompetent when he executed the November Will. The charities appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Levy, J.)

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