A private lawyer and a nursing home are locked in a probate litigation battle surrounding the estate of an 84-year-old patient who died in 2010. Attorneys for the family are accusing the nursing home of coercing the woman into donating her estate to the establishment instead of leaving her assets to beloved family members.

Information released in connection with the case show that the woman had not updated her will since 1992 when she was reportedly forced into changing the documents during the summer of 2010. Friends who witnessed the legal changes said that nursing home workers guided the woman’s hand as she signed the new documents, which left the bulk of the woman’s estate to the nursing home. That organization had not even been a partial beneficiary in the 1992 document.

Advocates for the woman say that she was nearly comatose and in the throes of dementia when she was asked to amend her estate plan. Almost immediately after signing the documents, the woman was placed in hospice care, where she passed away less than a month after changing her will.

A suit has been filed on behalf of the woman’s beneficiaries, including her niece and that woman’s son. The suit names Cypress Cove at Healthpark Florida as a defendant. It alleges that the woman did not possess the mental capacity to change such important documents.

The woman had been the dean of a pre-eminent regional college during the 1980s, according to her family. However, her sharp mind was degraded by dementia and confusion during her last years. The woman did not have immediate family members to watch over her care, as she never married and did not have children of her own.

This case illustrates the ease with which corporations can take advantage of confused people with diminished capacity. Protect your estate and your family members by establishing protocol in the event of your incapacitation.

Luis E. Barreto