Master Rejects Undue Influence and Fraud Claims Brought by a Decedent’s Nephew

Delaware Fiduciary Litigation Blog

Posted June 16, 2016

John Haldeman v. Marjorie Lee Worrell, and The Estate of Marjorie L. Tyson, by and through its Executrix Marjoire L. Worrell CA No 8282-MA (June 16, 2016)

The Decedent in this case was a kindly elderly woman without any children of her own. During the last years of her life, various extended family members provided different types of assistance to her. 

At one point, the Decedent deeded to Nephew a one-half interest in joint tenancy in a Lewes Beach house that the Decedent had long owned. That transfer to Nephew was not challenged in this case. But Nephew accused his cousin (decedent’s niece (“Niece”)) of fraud, misrepresentation, and having unduly influenced the Decedent toward the end of her life to transfer Decedent's half-interest in the Lewes Beach house to Niece, thereby severing the joint tenancy with the right of survivorship that Nephew previously had enjoyed, and to also change her will. Nephew claims that the Lewes Beach house should be his alone because he had an oral contract with the Decedent to leave him 100% of the house in exchange for his help in paying her bills.

Niece, in turn, accused Nephew of breaching his fiduciary duty to Decedent, and demanded an accounting of Nephew’s handling of the Decedent’s finances and the return of funds and personal property belonging to their aunt. A trial in this matter was held over four days. After a lengthy recounting of the testimony and an analysis thereof, the Master recommended that the Court deny Nephew’s request for rescission of the the will and assignment of lease, and grant Niece’s request for an accounting and the return of certain property.


William M. Kelleher, Director
Gordon, Fournaris & Mammarella, P.A.