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COA: No presumption of undue influence

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A 2005 amendment to Indiana Code sets aside the common law presumption of undue influence with respect to certain transactions benefiting an attorney in fact, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today on an issue of first impression.

The appellate judges had to decide in Gregory D. Compton, et al. v. First National Bank of Monterey, as personal representative of the estate of Stephen Craig Compton, et al., No. 66A03-0906-CV-249, if in light of a 2005 amendment to Indiana Code Section 30-5-9-2(b), the common law presumption of undue influence doesn't apply to a transaction where the principal takes action, the power of attorney is unused, and the attorney in fact benefits.

Stephen Compton's will in 2005 provided for his six children in varying degrees. His son Gregory was going to get 150 acres of his farmland. His power of attorney named his son Scott as his attorney in fact.

In 2008, Stephen became ill and was hospitalized with end-stage renal disease. He entered into a contract with Scott and his wife to buy the 150 acres willed to Gregory. Stephen also executed a contract to purchase Scott's home and put the house in his name. The sales hadn't been completed because of Stephen's death.

Monterey Bank asked the trial court to allow it to complete the contracts, which the trial court approved. Stephen's children Gregory, Sara, and Megan had objected and appealed the order.

The children argued the trial court should have applied the common law presumption of undue influence on the transactions, and that if applied, Scott failed to rebut it. Scott and the bank argued the 2005 amendment to I.C. 30-5-9-2(b) ended the common law presumption of undue influence.

There is scant caselaw on the statute in general and none on the issue since the amendment took effect. The Court of Appeals relied on Henry's Indiana Probate Law and Practice, which said 2(b) does abrogate the common law presumption of undue influence.

"A presumption of undue influence is now conditioned upon the attorney in fact's actual use of the power of attorney to effect the questioned transaction for his or her benefit," wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. "The benefiting attorney in fact is freed from the presumption of undue influence so long as the power of attorney is unused in the questioned transaction."

The appellate court also found Stephen, as the principal, took action in the case by signing the contracts, previously inquiring into selling his farmland before he was hospitalized, and asking a bank to value the farm real estate. The children also failed to show undue influence on Scott's part by showing the imposition of his power to deprive his father of the exercise of free will, the judge continued. The evidence supports Stephen acted under his free will, so the appellate court affirmed the grant of the bank's petition for completion of the contracts.

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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