September 2022

Posted September 20, 2022

In the Matter of the Estate of Albert J. Vietri, C.A. No. 2020-0806-PWG (August 31, 2022)

       After the Decedent’s death in July of 2020, claiming lack of capacity and undue influence, three of the Decedent’s children (the “Caveators”) filed a caveat against the allowance of the Decedent’s 2020 Will demanding an accounting and surcharge from the fourth sibling (“Paula”) for financial transactions Paula conducted for the Decedent. Paula denied that the 2020 Will was invalid. The Master recommended a finding that the Caveators had failed to prove lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence and, thus, that the Caveators demand for an accounting and surcharge be rejected. The Master also recommended that claims against Paula be denied.

       The Caveators relied on 12 Del. C. §1308 to challenge the validity of the Decedent’s 2020 Will. Delaware law presumes that a testator has sufficient testamentary capacity when executing a will; thus, the party challenging the validity bears the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. The Decedent’s declining health, previous hospitalizations, attorney meetings, communications with his children and grandchildren, and various witness testimony were all taken into account. The Master concluded that the Caveators did not overcome the presumption that the Decedent possessed testamentary capacity and, in so doing, found that the testimony of the drafting attorney, in particular, was persuasive in demonstrating that the Decedent understood what he was doing with his property in the 2020 Will.