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Will change of elderly woman

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In the State of Alabama, the great niece of of an elderly lady (we'll call her Pearl) took Pearl to a law office and and had Pearl change her will to leave everything to the great niece. Pearl was over 100 years old. Pearl's financial matters were taken from her 8 years prior because she had clearly proven she lacked the mental capacity to make sound decisions. The previous will left most of Pearl's estate to a person she had raised from a child as her own and Pearl's sole surviving sister. A niece of Pearl also lived with Pearl and was the main provider of day to day support and was also a potential heir. Pearl was the ward of the great niece by the verbal mutual agreement of the potential heirs because she lived close to Pearl and had volunteered her time. The great niece was also on the bank accounts and retirement funds co-signer for Pearl. Nursing care was supplemented by hospice services and the niece who lived with Pearl. The great niece had been told that she should use the retirement funds and income of the great aunt to provide for her care which was sufficient to meet the needs. The neice who lived with Pearl also payed some of the bills. No one in the family was consulted prior to the will change. The great niece also had durable power of attorney. The financial and business affairs of the deceased had been previoulsy handled by her nephew and niece who did not change the will. The original of the old will has not been located but there are many witnesses who saw the old will. Can a ward's will be changed with out consulting the family? Can the sole surving sister successfully challenge the will.



MAY 11, 2001


Please explain:

Is Pearl still alive now or not?

Did the nephew and niece (who previously handled Pearl's business affairs) have a POWER OF ATTORNEY or did they merely volunteer their services?

Can the witnesses of the old will remember the name of the attorney who drew it up or the names of the witnesses who signed it?

Did the niece ever make an effort to look for a will? I fear that the great niece may have found the old will and destroyed it.


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1. Pearl is now dead.
2. The nephew and the neice who lived with Pearl voluntarily and lovingly provided their services without a fee and without any type of "power of attorney".
3. The great neice who most recently provided the property management and fiduciary services and whom the new will benefits had a "durable power of attorney". Whether the date of the "durable power of attorney" was given before or after the revised will is unknown at this point. I have not seen it, but the great neice has confirmed that she had one and Pearl told me before her death that she gave her one. I also had a verbal agreement with the great neice that she could provide the services for a small fee. There was no signed contract for the services since she was considered to be trusted. The great neice also occassionally asked me for funds to supplement Pearl's support.
4. We are searching for old copies of the previous will. We have tried to contact a couple of Pearl's previous attorneys. One of Pearl's longest used lawyers died and his son said the files were returned to the family. We have identified 2 other people who saw the previous will and at least 6 people whom Pearl told what were her last wishes to include her neighbor of 50 years. No one to include the neice who lived with Pearl was advised of the most recent changes to the will. We will see if anyone remembers the names of witnesses to the signing of the will itself. We hadn't thought of that.

Anything else you could recommend would be appreciated.

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