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Dougherty v. Rubenstein

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
914 A.2d 184 (2007)


Facts

While in the hospital following a stroke, James Dougherty was disoriented, paranoid, and had extreme difficulty communicating. Two doctors examined James and certified that he suffered from dementia, that the dementia was permanent, and that as a result of his dementia James did not have the capacity to consent to the appointment of a guardian. James’ doctor recommended that he be placed in a nursing home. James’ only child, Jay Dougherty, placed James in a care home. James was angry with Jay for placing him in the care home, and refused to speak with Jay. James’ sister, Janet Rubenstein, removed James from the care home and returned James to his own home, where he improved and was able to live alone for several years. Jay had been handling James’ finances since James’ hospitalization. After James returned home, he accused Jay of stealing from him, and refused to consider any records that would have shown that Jay had not stolen from him. James executed a will that disinherited Jay, leaving his estate to his own sisters, including Janet. Jay (plaintiff) petitioned the circuit court to set aside James’ will, and Janet (defendant) sought probate of James’ will. The trial court disagreed with the hospital doctors’ opinion that James suffered from permanent dementia, because James was able to live and care for himself alone for several years. The trial court held that James’ belief that Jay had stolen from him was a delusion, but not an insane delusion, because James was not suffering from a mental disease when he executed his will. The court refused to set aside James’ will. Jay appealed, arguing that James’ will must be set aside because it was based on an insane delusion.

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Holding and Reasoning (Eyler, J.)

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