Paananen v. Kruse

581 So. 2d 186 (1991)

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Paananen v. Kruse

Florida District Court of Appeal
581 So. 2d 186 (1991)

Facts

Erma Carson’s 1985 will left her residuary estate to her grandnieces, Marcia Kruse and Mary Johnson (defendants), if Erma’s nephew-in-law, Karl Amschler, predeceased her. Erma’s husband, Harry, was left out of Erma’s 1985 will because of his impending death. Harry and Erma resided in a Florida retirement center. Because Karl lived out of state, he asked Muriel Paananen (plaintiff), a volunteer at the retirement center, to assist him with managing Harry and Erma’s affairs. Muriel became Erma’s close companion, accompanied her to appointments, and helped her with her finances. In 1987, after Erma told Muriel that she wanted to update her estate plan, Muriel arranged for her own estate attorney, rather than Erma’s attorney, to draft a new will and revocable trust for Erma. Muriel accompanied Erma to all meetings with the estate attorney and handled all communications regarding the will and trust. Erma only read the will and trust once, on the day she executed both, and did not ask the attorney any questions. Muriel kept the executed 1987 will and trust. Under the terms of the 1987 will and trust, Muriel, as trustee, was to use trust assets to care for Erma, Harry, and Karl until all three died, after which Muriel would inherit all remaining assets. Karl and Harry predeceased Erma shortly after the execution of the 1987 will and trust. After Erma’s death, Marcia and Mary petitioned to invalidate the 1987 will and trust for undue influence. At trial, Erma’s psychiatrist testified that she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and was susceptible to undue influence. Further testimony indicated Muriel had prevented Marcia and Mary from contacting Erma and from discovering the terms of the 1987 will and trust. The trial court revoked probate of the 1987 will and invalided the trust based on a finding of undue influence. Muriel appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Campbell, C.J.)

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