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Court of Appeals addresses issue of undue influence in life insurance dispute

Willis Tomlin was in very poor health when he allegedly decided to change the beneficiary of his life insurance to include his ten-year live-in girlfriend.  Willis' mother had been the sole beneficiary, and according to his girlfriend, Willis chose to revise the policy to name the girlfriend and Willis' daughter as equal beneficiaries.  She arranged for Willis to be evaluated by the hospital social worker and a notary public before executing the change of beneficiary form.  Willis' mother argued that Willis lacked the capacity to execute the document and that in any event his girlfriend exercised undue influence in securing the signature.

The Court noted that both the social worker and the notary testified that Willis knew what he was doing and that he was voluntarily consenting to the change.  It also noted that the girlfriend was not present at the time of execution, even though she had arranged it.  Given these facts, the court held that the girlfriend had overcome the presumption of undue influence arising out of her involvement in the execution of the form given her identification as a beneficiary, despite the evidence regarding Willis' weak and dependant state.

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