In Summary Action, Chancery Court Properly Struck Undue Influence And Lack Of Capacity Claims Without A Hearing 

The decedent, Virginia Ogborne, executed a 2016 will leaving her estate to two of her sons, including David, who she named executor. She left only a nominal bequest to another son, James.

After James filed a caveat to the will, David filed an Order to Show Cause to strike the caveat and admit the will to probate. On the return date of the Order to Show Cause, the court granted David’s relief without a hearing.

James had claimed that David exerted undue influence on their mother, and that Mrs. Ogborne lacked testamentary capacity when she executed the will. In support of his claims, James certified that, after their mother’s 2014 hospitalization, David had changed the locks on her house; that David and his girlfriend moved into Mrs. Ogborne’s home; that David isolated her from James and barred visits from James and their cousin Sandy; and that David did not tell him when their mother died. Their cousin Sandy also submitted a certification stating that David had fired home health aides; that David got angry if he learned that she was speaking to Mrs. Ogborne on the telephone; and that Mrs. Ogborne had told Sandy that she was afraid of David and wanted her estate shared equally among her sons.

On appeal, the lower court’s ruling was affirmed, finding that James failed to present facts that raised a genuine issue to preclude the entry of the order.

The appeals court found that James’s allegations were based on his belief and were largely lacking in time frames, and that Sandy’s allegations lacked time frames. It concluded that these certifications did not refute the attestation of the attorney who drafted the will, who certified that the will was the result of his private consultation with Mrs. Ogborne, and that she was clear-headed and independent when she executed it.

As the Appellate Division noted, “summary actions are, by definition, short, concise, and immediate, and further, are designed to accomplish the salutary purpose of swiftly and effectively disposing of matters which lend themselves to summary treatment.” It concluded that,

Inasmuch as a party in a summary action proceeding is not entitled to favorable inferences such as those afforded to the respondent in a summary judgment motion, the trial court correctly found James raised no material issue to warrant further proceedings.

A copy of In the Matter of the Estate of Ogborne can be found here – [gview file=””]

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