US police officer inheritance dispute reaches the courts

Published 15 Oct 2014

A US police officer continues to be at the centre of an inheritance dispute in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The case has progressed to a two-hour court hearing, which will take place on October 23, with the defendant accused of exerting undue influence over an elderly woman in order to inherit the majority of her estate.

Now deceased, the 93-year-old signed a new will in 2012 that left a significant proportion of her assets to the police officer, including a riverfront home, a Cadillac and stocks and bonds, Seacoastonline.com reports.

Contesting the will

Parties contesting the will claim that the woman – who died in 2012 – was suffering dementia and should not have been making important financial decisions.

There are conflicting reports on the estate’s worth, ranging from $1.8 million to $2.7 million. However, the police officer has nonetheless denied the allegations.

He admitted taking the woman to dinner and to a casino on two occasions. The officer, a police sergeant, also gave the elderly lady pictures of his children, which had been picked out by his wife.

A neighbour of the deceased claimed the officer visited the woman “hundreds of times” before her death, both in his personal vehicle and a police cruiser.

Two-day hearing for inheritance dispute

The court hearing this month will address scheduling and structuring for when the case goes to trial.

According to the judge, there is “no valid reason” why the trial should not go ahead in February as originally planned.

He added that the hearing will also consider arguments regarding how an unsuccessful attempt to reach a settlement earlier this year may alter current schedules.

Inheritance disputes in NSW

Despite occurring in the US, the above case provides a number of valuable lessons for people considering contesting a will in NSW.

Firstly, anyone who believes a friend or relative has been unduly influenced or coerced into writing a will would be well advised to contact a wills lawyer as soon as possible.

This is particularly important if the deceased is thought to suffer severe mental or physical ailments that could impair their decision making during the estate planning process.

For those writing a will, the case highlights the necessity of early estate planning to ensure your loved ones are appropriately cared for ahead of time.

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