North Dakota Supreme Court affirms finding of lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.

The testator had four natural children and six step-children from his second wife to whom he was married for 28 years until her death.  Several step-children had daily contact with the testator, and one sharecropped his land. His natural children lived out of state. About a year before his death, the testator moved in with the sharecropping stepson. During the last several years of his life, the testator (with the help of his stepson’s wife who was writing out his checks) wrote several checks to his stepson and his wife. Another stepson took the testator to an attorney in the last year of his life, and the testator transferred one farm to the accompanying stepson and one farm to the sharecropping stepson for one-half of the farms’ respective fair market values. A stepdaughter took the testator to an attorney’s office where he executed a will three months before he died. Due to the testator’s declining mental health, the testator’s natural son was appointed to be his guardian two months before his death. At his father’s death, the son sought to have the district court invalidate the pre-death transfers and the testator’s will. The district court granted relief to the son, finding that the stepchildren had exerted undue influence and that the testator lacked testamentary capacity. In affirming the judgment, the court ruled that the district court’s findings were not clearly erroneous and would not be disturbed. They would therefore be left undisturbed.  Erickson v. Olsen, No. No. 20130217, 2014 ND 66, 2014 N.D. LEXIS 59 (N.D. Sup. Ct. April 3, 2014).