Colorado Probate Blog - Wade Ash Woods Hill & Farley, P.C.

“Sound Mind”, “Lucid Intervals” and “Insane Delusions” – What Does It All Mean?

Author and director William “Tim” Burton is quoted as saying, “They say that one person’s insanity is another person’s reality.” Recently, Wade Ash has been involved in several interesting cases involving testators suffering from cognitive impairment when they prepared their Will or Trust. Even persons who are declared mentally incompetent, incapacitated or suffering from various types of mental illness or addiction, may still have sufficient capacity to prepare a Will or Trust. A testator may even lack testamentary capacity, but still have “lucid intervals” enabling them to prepare a Will.

Continue reading
  36 Hits
36 Hits

Will Contests

The proponents of the Will have the initial burden of due execution, venue, and proof of death. The burden is on the contestant to show lack of testamentary capacity, fraud, undue influence, duress, mistake or revocation. However, undue influence cannot be inferred by motive and opportunity alone. There must be some evidence, either direct or circumstantial, to show that undue influence not only existed but also influenced the making of the Will. I have always considered the two most important witnesses in a Will contest to be the drafting attorney and treating doctor.

Continue reading
  89 Hits
89 Hits

Electronic Wills-Dispensing With Pen and Paper (Part I)

Will Requirements

Continue reading
  753 Hits
753 Hits

Contention Over Lunar Bibles

The state of Texas and Oklahoma resident Carol Mersch, have been in a six-year, estate-related battle in court over 10 teeny microfilm Bibles that traveled to the moon and back in 1971 with NASA’s Apollo 14 Mission. These tiny Bibles contain all 1,245 pages of the King James Bible and are roughly the size of a postage stamp that can only be read through a microscope. Carol Mersch, a Tulsa business woman and author, and the state of Texas are not seeing eye-to-eye on who these precious keepsakes belong to. In 2009, Mersch became friends with a man named John Stout, a NASA chaplain. She claims Stout gave her the Bibles while she was writing a book about trying to land a Bible on the moon. Mersch has a certificate of authenticity signed by Stout, but attorneys for the state of Texas and the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services contend that due to the declining physical and mental health of Stout and his wife in their later years, they were considered wards of the state and their son, Jonathan Stout, should inherit the Bibles. Mersch is accused of exerting undue influence over Stout and his wife. She has spent approximately $500,000 defending the litigation regarding ownership of the moon Bibles. For now, until the rightful owner is established, these “First Lunar Bibles” remain stored in a Tulsa County courthouse pending a May 3 hearing.

  591 Hits
591 Hits

Controversy in the Estate of Mickey Rooney

The legendary screen actor Mickey Rooney died on April 7, 2014, leaving behind his wife, Jan, eight children and three step-children. During the last few years of his life, Mr. Rooney and his wife of 37 years were separated, but not divorced. As the result of prolonged litigation, in which Mr. Rooney accused some of his children of physical and financial abuse, a court-appointed conservator was managing his financial affairs. On March 11, 2014, Mr. Rooney signed a Will which left his estate to one step-son, as that step-son had been caring for Mr. Rooney during the last years of his life. Shortly after his death, Mr. Rooney's widow and Mr. Rooney's biological children all filed lawsuits contesting the validity of the Will. The children contend the step-son exerted undue influence over Mr. Rooney, resulting in a Will that disinherited them. Mrs. Rooney claims that in written agreements between herself and Mr. Rooney's conservator following her separation from Mr. Rooney, she never waived her rights as his surviving spouse. Most states, including Colorado, give surviving spouses the right to inherit from the deceased spouse, based on the length of the marriage and the assets of the spouses. The executor of the estate stated the agreements between Mrs. Rooney and Mr. Rooney executed upon their separation explicitly waived her right to inherit from his estate. The executor also stated Mrs. Rooney did not waive her rights as a surviving spouse for purposes of social security and pension benefits. The sad fact is that Mr. Rooney died with very few assets (approximately $18,000 in personal property) and with large medical bills and amounts owed to the government. However, the potential for rights to likeness, royalties, and other intangible valuables may create an incentive to move forward on these Will contests. After payment of taxes, debts and attorneys, it is doubtful anyone in Mr. Rooney's family will walk away with anything besides memories.

  1331 Hits
1331 Hits