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Carpenter v. Carpenter (In re Estate of Carpenter)

253 So. 2d 697 (1971)

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Carpenter v. Carpenter (In re Estate of Carpenter)

Florida Supreme Court

253 So. 2d 697 (1971)

Facts

Coketine Carpenter was a widow with four adult children: Mary, Ben, Sam, and Bill. Coketine had terminal, alcoholic, liver cirrhosis and was mentally impaired. Coketine had historically repeatedly expressed to her children an intent to divide her estate equally between them. Shortly before Coketine’s death, Mary realized that Coketine was gravely ill and arranged for Coketine to be admitted to the hospital. Mary then had her own lawyer, Russell Troutman, prepare a will leaving Coketine’s entire estate to Mary. Four days before Coketine’s death, Troutman met with Coketine at the hospital without Mary present, reviewed the will with Coketine, and questioned Coketine about her wishes. Troutman was satisfied Coketine had testamentary capacity. The will was properly executed before two attesting witnesses. Mary did not inform her brothers about the will until after Coketine’s death. Mary submitted the will to probate, and Ben and Bill contested, arguing the will was the product of undue influence. The county court invalidated the will and held that Mary failed to meet her burden to disprove undue influence. However, the district court reversed, finding that (1) there was sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption of undue influence, (2) Ben and Bill had the burden of proving undue influence, and (3) there was insufficient evidence to support an undue-influence finding without the presumption. Ben and Bill appealed, arguing the burden of proof should be on Mary to disprove undue influence.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McCain, J.)

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