Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Probate Lawyer Exercised Undue Influence on His Parents

A judge in Long Island, New York recently ruled that Edward F. Campbell, Jr., a Manhattan probate attorney, exercised undue influence over his parents and used his superior legal skills to convince them to enter into an unwise transaction.

See Anthony Lin, Lawyer's Purchase of Home From Parents Found Too Good to Be True, N.Y.L.J.,
March 30, 2006, who reports:

For no down payment and a mere $1,000 a month, he was assigned the deed to a seven-bedroom house sitting on two wooded acres in a village where the median home sale price has been close to $2 million in recent years.  * * *

The purchase agreement provided that Campbell's parents, Edward Sr. and Lucy, could continue to live in the house for the rest of their lives, cared for by their son and daughter-in-law, Carol.

In their complaint, the elder Campbells claimed the arrangement had rendered them "virtual prisoners in their bedroom" who were "fed sandwiches for dinner" and denied air conditioning in the summer. * * *

Edward Jr., the oldest of nine children, also asked all of his living siblings to sign a release form agreeing not to sue over the agreement. The judge said it was significant that he did not also circulate a copy of the purchase agreement for his siblings to review.

[The parents' lawyer] said there was a history of strife within the family. He said Edward Jr. had cut off contact with his parents for most of the 1980s, apparently over their decision to invite a certain relative to the christening of one of Edward Jr.'s children. They did not speak again until the funeral of one of Edward Jr.'s brothers.

The judge seemed to reference the origins of the family strife in noting the unfairness of the purchase agreement in requiring the elder Campbells to seek permission to entertain guests in the house while placing no similar restrictions on Edward Jr.'s family.

Special thanks to Prof. Paul Caron (Tax Professor Blog) for bringing this case to my attention.


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