RUTLAND — The state’s highest court Friday upheld a Windsor County jury’s decision that $1.5 million of Phyllis Agan’s $8 million estate was legally bequeathed to more than 10 nonprofit organizations in Ludlow.
But the Vermont Supreme Court decision also rejected a cross-appeal from those nonprofits seeking $500,000 in legal fees and interest on the funds that have been tied up since Agan’s death in 2008.
Agan included the nonprofit organizations in her will during a seventh rewriting of the document in 2005. By that time, she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and was exhibiting some symptoms, according to court documents.
Members of Agan’s family contested the amended will on the grounds that she was no longer of sound mind and that her guardian and longtime friend exerted undue influence on her.
At the end of a 2012 civil trial, jurors found that Agan had the capacity to rewrite her will and wasn’t influenced.
But an appeal of that verdict stopped the disbursement of funds to the organizations.
Peter Langrock, the Middlebury attorney representing the nonprofit groups, said the long wait was over — as long as no motion for reconsideration is filed in the next 10 days.
The Burlington attorney representing Agan’s sister, niece and nephew couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
In their appeal of the civil trial, Agan’s family argued that there was “no countervailing evidence” to rebut the presumption that undue influence was exercised.
But the high court found that in testimony provided by a doctor who testified for the defense at trial, as well as statements made by the guardian and Agan’s longtime attorney, offered the jurors ample room to reach an alternative conclusion.
The high court also found arguments made by Langrock for attorney’s fees “unpersuasive” because the civil court judge that initially denied the request didn’t abuse her discretion.
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