Sisters can’t prove brother unduly influenced mother in crafting estate plan

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the order by a trial court that the execution of an option contract by a woman to her son was enforceable. The woman’s daughters claimed the contract was a result of undue influence.

Kenneth Hayes has power of attorney over his mother. In 2005, Phyllis Hayes executed a promissory note, mortgage, will, and an option contract as part of her estate plan created by attorney Joseph Certain. Certain created the documents pursuant to Phyllis Hayes’ request and videotaped Phyllis Hayes on March 3, 2005, explaining why she set up her estate plan the way she did. The option contract allowed Kenneth Hayes to purchase her 200-acre farm at $2,500 per acre, for a total price of $500,000, a reasonable fair market price at the time. She explained that her son would receive more of the assets than her other children because she was repaying a $180,000 loan he had made to her and her husband in the 1980s to keep the farm running.

Kenneth Hayes told his sisters Jo Ann Hayes and Dianna Hale in 2010 that he was going to purchase the farm. They objected because the farm is worth far more now than it was when their mother created the option contract. Their expert valued the price per acre between $8,000 and $10,000.
After a hearing, the trial court found that Kenneth Hayes did not unduly influence his mother to make the contract. Although his mother was found to be incompetent in 2011, her doctor testified that she was mentally competent to enter into the 2005 contract. The sisters appealed.

“The trial court’s numerous findings, which were based on Phyllis’s attorney’s testimony and the video of Phyllis taken at the time the option contract was executed, support its conclusion that Kenneth did not unduly influence Phyllis. Further, any doubt as to whether the trial court held Kenneth to the higher standard of proof is eliminated by the trial court’s conclusion ‘that it would be reasonable to conclude that [Phyllis] was in a superior position’ because she was represented by counsel and Kenneth was not,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in Guardianship of Phyllis D. Hayes, an Adult, Joann Hayes and Dianna Hale v. Kenneth J. Hayes, 52A02-1308-GU-751.

The sisters simply have not shown that the manner in which the estate plan was crafted establishes that Kenneth Hayes failed to rebut the presumption of undue influence, the appeals court held.



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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues