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In re Kaufmann’s Will

New York Appellate Division
247 N.Y.S.2d 664 (1964)


Facts

After moving to New York, multimillionaire Robert Kaufmann met Walter Weiss (proponent), a non-practicing attorney whom he hired as his financial consultant. Weiss moved in with Kaufmann and they eventually moved into an expensive townhouse purchased by Kaufmann. Weiss ran the household, managed all of Kaufmann’s expenses and investments, allowing Kaufmann to focus on his painting. Kaufmann and Weiss had an active social life and appeared in public as a loving and affectionate couple. However, on one occasion Kaufmann brought a young man to a hotel in Paris, where Weiss confronted them and threw out the young man, to which Kaufmann made no protest. Over the years, Kaufmann made several wills in which he left greater and greater portions of his estate to Weiss, eventually leaving his entire estate to Weiss. Accompanying Kaufmann’s wills was a letter from him to his family explaining the reasons that Weiss was so important to him and that Kaufmann was leaving his estate to Weiss to thank him for all he had done for him. Before his death, Kaufmann also executed documents giving Walter complete control over his financial affairs and medical decisions in the event of his incapacity, i.e., the powers of a legal spouse. Kaufmann’s family, however, resented Weiss’ role in Kaufmann’s life and upon Kaufmann’s death, his brother, Joel (contestant), sought to have the will set aside, claiming undue influence. Two jury trials ensued, both resulting in a finding of undue influence. Weiss appealed to the appellate division.  

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Holding and Reasoning

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