Estate of Kathryn Parker Blair, Superior Court of NJ, Appellate Division, Docket No. A-5482-13T1

The petitioner, Lori Ann Parker, appealed an April 29, 2014 Order that dismissed her Verified Complaint.  Petitioner had sought to set aside her aunt’s Will because, among other reasons, she claimed that her aunt had signed the Will as the result of undue influence and also lacked requisite testamentary capacity.

On June 25, 1987, Kathryn Parker Blair (“Decedent”) executed a Will that provided her estate would pass equally to her siblings but, if a sibling predeceased her, that sibling’s share would pass to his or her surviving children (i.e., the Decedent’s nieces and nephews).  The petitioner, Lori Ann Parker (“Lori”), was one of the Decedent’s nieces.

On October 11, 2012, Decedent executed a new Will in which Lori was not named as a beneficiary.  Two days later, Decedent, then 80 years of age, died of ovarian cancer.  Id. at *2.

On October 24, 2012, the new Will was probated.  Lori filed a Verified Complaint on July 17, 2013, alleging that the Will was the product of undue influence and that the Decedent lacked the testamentary capacity to execute a Will.  Lori filed a motion for summary judgment and the Decedent’s estate filed a cross-motion seeking to have the Complaint dismissed on the grounds that the substantive claims asserted in the Complaint were devoid of merit.  Id. at *2-3.  The trial court denied Lori’s motion and granted the estate’s cross-motion for summary judgment, and dismissed the Complaint.

In Lori’s motion, she asserted that Decedent lacked the mental capacity to sign the Will, because at the time of the execution of the Will she was dying from cancer, in chronic pain, and on pain medication.  The trial court found that Lori failed to set forth any evidence to support her claim of testamentary incapacity, noting that she failed to produce an expert’s report.  In addition, two of Decedent’s closest friends testified that Decedent at the time that she signed the Will was “stable, strong-willed, focused, and rational”.  Id. at *3.  Further, neither of those friends stood to gain anything under the new Will.  The trial court found that Lori “failed to present any competent evidence that Decedent lacked the required testamentary incapacity to execute the Will”.  Id. at *4.

Lori also contended that the executor exerted undue influence over Decedent and wrongfully induced her to sign the Will.  Likewise, the trial court found no evidence in support of such contention.  Specifically, the executor had never been in a confidential relationship with Decedent and there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the execution of the Will.  Id.

The Appellate Division found that there was insufficient merit in Lori’s arguments to warrant further discussion in a written opinion.  After reviewing the record and the applicable principles, the appellate court affirmed the trial court.  Id. *8.