DALLAS, April 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- A Dallas County probate court jury unanimously found that a 72-year-old husband improperly influenced his dying wife to sign a new will the day before she died. The new will gave her second husband effective control over his wife's assets in a family trust, contrary to an earlier will his wife had signed in 1992 that designated the family trust to primarily benefit her children from her first marriage.
Jean Knight Baty, 68, died in her Turtle Creek high-rise in January 2014, following a debilitating illness that left her in declining physical health for several years. The jury heard testimony that Ms. Baty's husband of 24 years, Donald Baty, called an attorney the morning his wife was admitted to hospice care to bring over a will for execution.
Close to the time of the will signing, medical notes indicated that she was suffocating, which the husband admitted was her greatest fear. She was also scheduled to immediately begin a series of palliative care treatments, including morphine and anti-anxiety medications. Ms. Baty died less than 24 hours after the will was signed.
The two witnesses to the signing were staff employees at the couple's condominium property.
After a six-day trial in Dallas Probate Court No. 1 before the Hon. Judge Brenda Thompson, jurors deliberated for just over an hour before invalidating the 2014 will, finding that Ms. Baty lacked the testamentary capacity to understand her actions and was unduly influenced into signing the will. The jury also found that the husband had not acted in good faith and with just cause in defending the 2014 will.
"This is a very gratifying ruling, especially considering the egregious behavior of her husband and the circumstances involved in the will signing," says attorney Brian N. Hail of Gruber Elrod Johansen Hail Shank, who represented Ms. Baty's son at trial, along with co-counsel Brian Mason. "The circumstances of her death were tragic, but could have been more so had the 2014 will not been set aside."
According to Mr. Hail, based on the jury verdict, his client will seek removal of the husband as executor and trustee under the original 1992 will, as well as pursue claims for multiple breaches of fiduciary duty.
Gruber Elrod Johansen Hail Shank LLP represents clients in complex commercial litigation in Texas and across the nation, with extensive experience in probate, trust and fiduciary matters. The firm's practice extends to litigation involving energy, contract disputes, pipeline construction, partnership dissolutions, labor and employment, securities and shareholder disputes, intellectual property, bankruptcy and other business and commercial cases. Clients include leading companies and individuals as both defendants and plaintiffs across a broad range of industries. To learn more, visit http://www.getrial.com/.
For more information on the verdict, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or [email protected].
SOURCE Gruber Elrod Johansen Hail Shank LLP