Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Judge rules against caregiver in contested will case

Some of you may wonder what happened to the contested will of the late Warren Cummins of Hillsdale. You may recall that to the surprise of Cummins' family, the will named Cummins’ caregiver of four months as the sole beneficiary of his $1 million estate.

Today, declaring that caregiver Patricia McIntosh’s testimony was simply not credible, Judge Katherine Tennyson of the Multnomah Circuit Court threw out the will.

Instead, under an earlier will, McIntosh will get $50,000 and the rest of the estate will be divided with half going to the non-profit Loaves & Fishes, headquartered in Multnomah Village. The other half will go to Cummins’ family.

But first the beneficiaries have to retrieve an estimated $200,000 to $300,000 that McIntosh drew down from Cummins’ checking accounts. Cummins, who died at age 91 last September, had added McIntosh as a signatory on the accounts, which became hers on his death.

The judge ruled her claim to those accounts to be invalid because of McIntosh's undue influence over Cummins.

Tennyson concluded, based on hundreds of pages of legal documents and three days' testimony in April that the changes in the will clearly reflected McIntosh’s designs on the estate and resulted from her instilling fear and suspicion into Cummins.

The old man had disapproved of his stepson’s placing his late wife into a nursing home in 2007. But it was only in late May 2008 after McIntosh moved into the caregiver’s unit of the Cummins’ big ranch-style house, on the corner of Boundary and SW 19th, that Cummins sought to change his will to benefit McIntosh and to cut out Johnson.

McIntosh repeatedly testified that she resisted Cummins’ changes, saying that they were wrong, but, she maintained that Cummins insisted so she reluctantly agreed to go along with them.

Tennyson declared that McIntosh’s version of what happened simply didn’t hold up under the testimony of others.

Speaking from the bench, the judge said the most telling exchange in McIntosh’s April testimony came when McIntosh’s own attorney, James Cartwright, asked her “Why didn’t you just say ‘no’?” to what she said was Cummins’ insistence that she take the money.

To which McIntosh answered, “How do you just say ‘no’?”

On Wednesday, in explaining the decision to set aside the will, Tennyson gave McIntosh a mini-lecture on when and how to say ‘no’” to wrong.

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