Client Prevails on Appeal in Estate Dispute

Attorneys Brian King and Ingrid McLeod prevail on appeal in a published appellate opinion that clarifies the legal elements of undue influence: Estate of Helen Correll v. Kitsap Bank, et al., Court of Appeals of Washington State, Division II, Cause No. 43282-0-II, dated November 5, 2013.

Helen Correll named her friend, Respondent Charlena Lanterno, the payable on death beneficiary of the funds in her checking account. After Ms. Correll passed away, the Personal Representative of the Estate of Helen Correll challenged Ms. Lanterno’s ownership of those funds, claiming the beneficiary designation was a result of undue influence. With the assistance of Davies Pearson attorneys Susan Caulkins and Brian King, Ms. Lanterno persuaded the trial court that she was entitled to judgment as a matter of law and for an award of her reasonable attorney fees in responding to the Estate’s claim.

After the Estate appealed the trial court’s summary judgment order, Davies Pearson attorneys Brian King and Ingrid McLeod assisted Ms. Lanterno in responding, securing affirmance of the trial court’s ruling. The Court of Appeals concluded that no rational trier of fact could find clear, cogent, and convincing evidence establishing the presumption of undue influence by Ms. Lanterno and, even assuming that the presumption of undue influence applied, the Court held that Ms. Lanterno had successfully rebutted the presumption, affirmed the award of her reasonable attorney fees below, and awarded her reasonable attorney fees on appeal.

In its opinion, the Court also clarified the distinction between confidential and fiduciary relationships in the context of undue influence claims and confirmed the broad application of Chapter 11.96A RCW to all matters concerning the administration of estates and nonprobate assets.

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