Baron v. Deroy; Deroy v. Estate of Baron
A court may rely on a neuropsychologist's opinion that a decedent suffered from dementia when the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the decedent lacked the minimal testamentary capacity to execute a valid will. The plaintiffs' decedent, Edith Baron, had three children, Jeanne, Glen and Aleta. In February 2002, she executed a will that left her estate and her interest in a farm to Glen and Aleta in equal shares. A few months afterward, the decedent decided to amend her will. Concerned about mental competence, Attorneys Steven Reck and Louis Button, of the law firm of Trebisacci and Reck, arranged for a neuropsychologist, Christopher Tolsdorf, to examine the decedent. In June 2002, Tolsdorf evaluated the plaintiffs' decedent and opined that the decedent suffered from dementia and was not competent. The decedent comprehended who her children were and, after questioning, the attorneys decided to let her sign the amended will. She executed a will in July 2002 that left her principal asset, her interest in the farm, to Jeanne and the remainder of her estate to Jeanne, Glen and Aleta, in equal shares. Glen and Aleta argued the decedent lacked the testamentary capacity to execute the July 2002 will. 'In order to have sufficient capacity to make a will, the testatrix must have had at the time sufficient mind and memory to comprehend the nature and conditions of her property, the persons who were or should be the natural objects of her bounty and her relation to them, the manner in which she wished to distribute it among or withhold it from them, and the scope and bearing of the provisions of the will,' pursuant to Havens v. Mason, a 2005 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. On remand from the Connecticut Appellate Court, the Superior Court found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the plaintiffs' decedent, who suffered from dementia, lacked minimal testamentary capacity to execute a valid will in July 2002 and did not comprehend the way in which property would be distributed. The July 2002 will was void, and the Superior Court granted judgment to the plaintiffs.