Wills–The Receipt of Substantial Benefits Under a Will by One in Confidential Relationship with Testator Raises a Presumption of Undue Influence Which After Rebutting Evidence is Introduced Remains as a Permissible Inference for the Jury–In re Wood Estate
Testator bequeathed to proponent, his private secretary, a substantial portion of his estate. Contestant, testator’s niece and sole heir, attacked the validity of the bequest on the grounds of proponent’s alleged undue influence, and introduced evidence indicating the existence of a confidential relationship between proponent and testator. Proponent denied both the existence of a confidential relationship and the allegations of undue influence, and introduced evidence that independent counsel had advised testator in the making of his will. The trial court granted proponent’s motion for a directed verdict. On appeal, held reversed, two justices dissenting. The receipt of substantial benefits under a will by one in a confidential relationship with testator raises a presumption of undue influence which remains as a permissible inference for the jury even after rebutting evidence has been introduced.