Jury’s determination of testamentary capacity when voiding will was res judicata on capacity (but not on undue influence) for will executed 16 days earlier: ROTHWELL V. SINGLETON (COA 6/6/2008)

ROTHWELL V. SINGLETON
WILLS AND ESTATES:  Testamentary capacity and res judicata
2007-CA-001348
PUBLISHED:  REVERSING AND REMANDING
PANEL:  THOMPSON PRESIDING; KELLER, GRAVES CONCUR
LINCOLN COUNTY
DATE RENDERED: 6/6/2008

This published Court of Appeals will contest case involves the usual issues of capacity and undue influence. What makes this one of some interest is the fact that it involved a Will dated December 12, 1999 and that, in an earlier action, a jury was asked to consider a will dated December 28, 1999. The jury determined and the court held that the decedent had capacity on December 28th but that will was void because it was the result of undue influence. The question before the court in the case at bar was whether the determination of capacity as of December 28th was res judicata as to the question of capacity on December 12th of the same year. The trial court held that it was, but the Court of Appeals reversed and held that the only issue at hand was capacity as of December 12. The Court of Appeals indicated that “[on remand, the appellant will have an onerous burden.” The Court did not indicate whether the will’s proponent would be able to inform the about the testator’s capacity on December 28th.

Digested by Jim Worthington

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