Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (TRP3-01) (Hon. Eugene N. Hamilton, Trial Judge).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reid, Associate Judge
Argued September 26, 2006
Before RUIZ, REID and FISHER, Associate Judges.
These consolidated cases primarily involve a trust established by Loraine Boley Ingersoll prior to her death, a family foundation created under that trust, and a lawsuit filed by her daughter, appellee, Barbara J. Ingersoll, against her brothers, appellants, William B. Ingersoll, Henry G. Ingersoll, and Joseph W. Ingersoll, as well as against appellant, the District of Columbia. The Ingersoll brothers challenge several findings and conclusions of the trial court, dated December 9, 2004, including those relating to William's alleged undue influence over his mother, his alleged tortious interference with Barbara's inheritance of residential property, and his mother's testamentary intent; they also contest aspects of the trial court's judgment of February 25, 2005 (Appeal No. 05-PR-337). Furthermore, the Ingersoll brothers appeal trial court orders, dated May 4, 2005 and mailed on July 8, 2005, denying motions pertaining to their counterclaim which sought to restore to their mother's estate certain proceeds -- mainly from a mutual funds account and a bank account (Appeal No. 05-PR-756). The District's appeal involves the trial court's judgment of February 25, 2005, as it related to a charitable family foundation created and funded out of assets from Mrs. Ingersoll's estate (Appeal No. 05-PR-263).
We are constrained to conclude that certain of the trial court's findings are not supported by the record and are clearly erroneous; and that certain of the court's conclusions, which may be traceable to the absence of relevant case law in this jurisdiction, rest on a misconception of applicable legal principles. We vacate the trial court's findings and conclusions pertaining to the undue influence and intentional interference with an expected inheritance counts of Barbara J. Ingersoll's complaint (Counts I and III), reverse its judgments regarding Counts I and III, and remand this case with instructions to enter judgment for appellants on Counts I and III of the complaint.
In addition, we reverse the trial court's apparent ruling that William had no standing to bring the conversion count of the counterclaim, but we remand this case to the trial court to determine the retroactive impact, if any, of the Uniform Non-probate Transfers on Death Act on Count IV of William B. Ingersoll's counterclaim (the conversion count). However, we sustain the trial court's judgment concerning Count I of the counterclaim pertaining to a residential property.
The record before us reveals that on March 14, 1999, Loraine Ingersoll, then an 88-year-old District of Columbia resident (whose husband, Dr. William Brown Ingersoll, died in 1977), entered Sibley Memorial Hospital where she later was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She underwent heart bypass surgery on March 27, 1999, due to congestive heart failure. On April 1, 1999, while she was still in the hospital, Mrs. Ingersoll executed five documents, including amendments to her trust and will, and signed a deed on April 6, 1999. She was discharged from the hospital on April 9, 1999, and she died on June 2, 2000.
After Mrs. Ingersoll's death, her four children, William Boley Ingersoll ("William"), Barbara Jane Ingersoll ("Barbara"), Henry Grant Ingersoll ("Henry"), and Joseph Warren Ingersoll ("Joseph"), became locked in an intense and unpleasant disagreement concerning their mother's testamentary intent and the distribution of her assets. The two main antagonists in this struggle were the children on whom Mrs. Ingersoll depended the most -- Barbara, for her personal care as she aged and became ill, and William, her oldest son, for carrying out her wishes with respect to her estate.
In early 2001, Barbara filed a verified complaint against her brothers and the District of Columbia.*fn1 In Count I of her complaint, she alleged undue influence by William on her mother, thereby resulting in a restatement of the Loraine Boley Ingersoll Trust ("the Trust") and in William's control of twenty-five percent of her mother's estate, which he placed in the Ingersoll Family Foundation ("the Foundation"), a charitable foundation created after Mrs. Ingersoll's death.*fn2 In Count III ("Tortious Interference with an Expectancy"), Barbara asserted that William, as Trustee of the Trust, intentionally interfered with her receipt of real and personal property from her mother. She sought to invalidate (1) the restatement of the Trust as well as the creation of the Foundation, or William's control over the Foundation; and (2) William's judicial effort to evict her from the home on Dexter Street, in the Northwest quadrant of the District, in which she had resided with her mother.*fn3 Barbara demanded deeds to the Dexter Street property, as well as the contents of that property, and a beach home in Delaware, including its contents; in the alternative, Barbara requested a monetary sum equal to the value of the Dexter Street and Delaware properties and their contents.*fn4
In late March 2001, the Ingersoll brothers lodged an answer, and a counterclaim against Barbara relating to the Dexter Street property. Their counterclaim alleged loss of fair rental value, common law waste, and interference with prospective business advantage. The counterclaim also contained a conversion count which maintained that Barbara wrongfully converted personalty, mutual funds and bank accounts from her mother's estate.
The struggle between William and Barbara intensified in April and May 2001. In response to William's efforts to gain entry to inspect the Dexter Street property in connection with his role as personal representative of Mrs. Ingersoll's estate, and William's landlord and tenant complaint for possession, Barbara filed for a protective order, and for a show cause order pertaining to personal property in the Delaware home. Following a May 2001 hearing, the trial court appointed a receiver for the Trust. However, after the filing of pleadings by the siblings to reverse the appointment, and a hearing on those pleadings in September and October 2001, the trial court vacated its receivership order on November 1, 2001.
Subsequently, trial on Barbara's lawsuit began on June 17, 2002, but on that day the parties orally informed the trial judge that they had reached a settlement. On June 18, one of the parties stated that no agreement had been reached. Further delay in the trial occurred when one of the parties sought to enforce the purported settlement agreement, and hearings on the motion to enforce the purported agreement took place on four separate days in August, September and November 2002. Thereafter, when no settlement occurred, a new trial took place in late June and early July 2004, lasting nine days.*fn5
Barbara, the plaintiff (appellee in this court), presented testimony from several witnesses. Some witnesses attempted to show that Mrs. Ingersoll intended that Barbara should get the Dexter Street and Delaware properties and their contents, and that Mrs. Ingersoll did not intend to create a charitable foundation. Francis Kane, who grew up in the same area of the District as the Ingersoll family, and who had a beach home in the same Delaware area as the Ingersoll family, spent time with Mrs. Ingersoll in July 1997 when he drove her from the Delaware beach to her Dexter Street home. During a conversation which Mrs. Ingersoll wanted "to be in trust," Mrs. Ingersoll said that the contents of the Dexter Street home, as well as the Dexter Street property and the Delaware property, were to go to Barbara "tax free" for her life, and then to all the grandchildren. Except for Mrs. Ingersoll's "charitable gift" to her college, the Ingersoll siblings should each receive one-quarter of her remaining estate. The word "foundation" never came up in any of Mr. Kane's conversations with Mrs. Ingersoll. On cross-examination, Mr. Kane acknowledged that his friendship with Barbara was "substantially closer" than that with her brothers. Around 1998, Barbara took her mother to an appointment with Barbara Deraad, Mrs. Ingersoll's hair stylist. According to Ms. Deraad, Mrs. Ingersoll said, "I want Barbara to have my home and everything in it." "The boys have their own homes." When Barbara Ingersoll visited Ms. Deraad in 2001, she was upset about the Delaware beach home that she could not buy.
Lawrence Gaffey, an accountant whose firm was retained to do accounting work for the Ingersoll family, had a telephone conversation with Mrs. Ingersoll around May 1996, but he did not recall the content of their conversation or any mention of a family foundation. Mr. Gaffey worked with a partner in his firm, Jon Deane, and Mr. Gaffey had limited involvement in estate planning for Mrs. Ingersoll. He had previously worked with Mr. Nudelman, "an excellent estate attorney." Mr. Gaffey, not William Ingersoll, recommended that the firm bring in Mr. Nudelman to work on Mrs. Ingersoll's estate planning.
Through testimony from attorneys and accountants, Barbara endeavored to establish that William determined Mrs. Ingersoll's testamentary intent, and hence, unduly influenced her. One of the attorneys who testified was Ronald Recht. William referred his mother to Mr. Recht, a "tax-oriented estates and trusts" attorney. Mrs. Ingersoll retained Mr. Recht around 1987. Mr. Recht recalled talking with Mrs. Ingersoll about "preserving her estate for the children, grandchildren, and possibly making a charitable contribution." Mrs. Ingersoll stated that Mr. Recht "should deal with Mr. [William] Ingersoll in working out the details." Mr. Recht discussed the work he performed on behalf of Mrs. Ingersoll until sometime in 1995, as well as his interactions or communications with Mrs. Ingersoll, William, Henry and Joseph, and Jon Deane, a partner in the family's accounting firm. Mr. Recht sent a memorandum on June 5, 1989 to the Ingersoll brothers and Jon Deane "discussing a possible charitable leave trust." However, he was never asked to prepare any documents relating to his memorandum. Mr. Recht believed that William asked him to make a change in the 1989 trust documents; instead of an outright distribution to him, the trust amendment would reflect a trust distribution. Mr. Recht had no notes and remembered no communication with Mrs. Ingersoll about the 1993 amendments and did not think he sent them to her. His May 3, 1993 letter to William, conveying the trust amendment and codicil to Mrs. Ingersoll's will, was not sent to Mrs. Ingersoll. On May 7, 1993, he also sent the amendments to Jay Zawatsky at William's law firm, Ingersoll and Block. Although Mr. Recht's notes showed, "375,000" and "CLT" (charitable leave trust), he was never asked to create a CLT and recalled no conversation with Mrs. Ingersoll regarding "how to effectuate her charitable intent."
On February 1, 1995, Mr. Recht sent a letter to William concerning Mrs. Ingersoll's federal estate tax estimate. The letter also contained a "summary of [Mrs. Ingersoll's] present estate plan, possible use of the charitable leave trust, possibl[e] use of a family partnership, [and] the possibility of a personal residence trust." Mrs. Ingersoll sent Mr. Recht, by certified mail, a handwritten note dated February 20, 1995 bearing an "indurata notary" and "a raised seal." The letter, purporting to amend her will, specified that the Dexter Street home and the beach home in Delaware would go to Barbara and Joseph. On February 23, 1995, Mr. Recht advised Mrs. Ingersoll, by letter, that she would need to "formally" amend her trust or will, and suggested a meeting with "the children or the family" "if she want[ed] to go forward with these changes." Sometime after receiving Mrs. Ingersoll's February 20th letter, Mr. Recht met with her and William. On July 21, 1995, Mr. Recht sent a letter to William referencing a meeting with Mrs. Ingersoll and William "on Thursday of last week" and the "conclusions that we reached." Paragraph 4 of the letter states:
Barbara's Right to Purchase Both Residences and Their Furnishings. Barbara is to have the right to purchase both residences and their furnishings at a price equal to their values as finally determined for federal estate tax purposes. We did not discuss how that value would be determined if the residences are transferred to personal residence trusts and are not revalued later for federal estate tax purposes. In that event, presumably, the basis for valuing the residences for gift tax purposes would be used on an updated basis.
Mr. Recht met together with Mrs. Ingersoll, William and Barbara, but did not mention the date of the meeting. Mr. Recht did not believe that he was ever asked to prepare documents for Mrs. Ingersoll's signature which would reflect the conclusions mentioned in his July 21st letter. Later, on October 4, 1996, he faxed a copy of Mrs. Ingersoll's will and first codicil to Mr. Gaffey, but did not recall who requested the documents. On cross-examination, Mr. Recht asserted that in 1989 he may have discussed a charitable gift with Mrs. Ingersoll. He recalled that Mrs. Ingersoll "wanted to make what we would consider substantial charitable gifts," and he acknowledged that a charitable gift in excess of one million dollars "comes to mind." In addition, he remembered that Mrs. Ingersoll wanted her children to share the rest of the money equally.
The task of preparing trust amendments shifted to Barry Nudelman, an estate attorney, in October 1996. Mr. Nudelman testified that he had never met Mrs. Ingersoll, nor spoken with her by telephone. On October 1, 1996, Mr. Gaffey asked him to lunch and requested that he perform estate planning services for Mrs. Ingersoll. Notes that Mr. Nudelman took during the luncheon meeting show that Mrs. Ingersoll was 87-years-old at the time and that his work would concern a trust amendment for her. The amendment would divide the trust estate into two components at Mrs. Ingersoll's death -- (a) the beach home and the Dexter Street property, and (b) all other assets. "All other assets other than the residence [were] to be created into [a] foundation known as the William Brown Ingersoll and Loraine Boley Ingersoll Foundation." If the foundation was not created during Mrs. Ingersoll's lifetime, it would be "set up by William B. Ingersoll [son] and one of the [trustees]." Mr. Nudelman's notes also say: "Son wants to be foundation manager and derive a fee (foundation will be funded at ten million dollar level)." The notes continued: "Family entity already exists and may be used to hold real estate or [otherwise], new entity will be created, and it is likely that interest in the new entity would be transferred to [private foundation]"; and "[s]on would get income from entity." Mr. Nudelman transmitted draft and final draft trust amendments and second codicil to Mr. Gaffey in early October 1996. He had no conversations with Mrs. Ingersoll after transmitting these documents and did not meet with William, but had a telephone conversation with him on October 17, 1996. Mrs. Ingersoll never responded to the "personal and confidential" engagement letter which Mr. Nudelman sent her on November 1, 1996. He could not explain why he addressed the letter to Mrs. Ingersoll at a Virginia address when she lived in the District.
More estate work was done for Mrs. Ingersoll in 1998 and 1999. Patrick Vaughn, a trust and estates attorney for 34 years at the time of trial, had a meeting with William on November 17, 1998. Mr. Vaughn had never done work previously for William or the Ingersoll family. He stated at trial that he did not know who referred William to him. William wanted estate planning done for his mother; he handed Mr. Vaughn the 1989, 1993, and 1996 trust documents. After reviewing them, Mr. Vaughn "recommended that the provisions for the foundation be expressed as a percentage and as a specific bequest with a residuary trust assets to go to the non-charitable beneficiaries." A second meeting took place on November 23, 1998, with Mr. Vaughn, William, and Mr. Deane, the partner at the family's accounting firm. They "discussed a number of  estate tax reduction strategies." Subsequently, Mr. Vaughn had several telephone conversations with William in December 1998 and March 1999. William did not inform Mr. Vaughn in March that his mother was in Sibley Hospital. As instructed by William, Mr. Vaughn assembled the documents he prepared, together with a March 23, 1999, cover letter addressed to Mrs. Ingersoll, care of William. He believed that William picked the package up on March 31 because he had an appointment to see someone else at Mr. Vaughn's firm on that date. On cross-examination, Mr. Vaughn stated that it was not unusual for a client to sign documents in the hospital.
Jon Deane, a CPA, performed work for Mrs. Ingersoll "from 1978 through her death." He described her as "financially astute as to the details of her financial planning," but stated that she was not as astute in her later years as her earlier years. He never spoke with Mrs. Ingersoll about estate planning. Mr. Deane identified 1996 notes from a telephone conversation he had with William and Mr. Gaffey. His notes included the words, "BJI to get homes," which were written "during the discussion of how [Mrs. Ingersoll's] estate was to be handled . . . ." On cross-examination, Mr. Deane acknowledged having discussions with William and Mr. Gaffey concerning Barbara paying for the Dexter Street and Delaware properties, and regarding Barbara's 25% of Mrs. Ingersoll's estate consisting of the two properties, or the two properties "com[ing] out of [Barbara's] 25%" of Mrs. Ingersoll's estate.
Barbara's testimony focused on the Dexter Street and Delaware beach homes, her mother's health, and the family foundation. She recounted occasions on which her mother orally stated that she, Barbara, would get these two properties, including a December 1999 meeting with Dr. Kaplan, Barbara's therapist and psychological consultant. Present at the meeting were Mrs. Ingersoll, William, Barbara, and Dr. Kaplan. Mrs. Ingersoll "wanted a witness to hear what she had to say about [her] trust, and what she wanted in the trust . . . ." Mrs. Ingersoll said that Barbara "was to get that house on Dexter Street, free and clear . . . and the contents of it[,] and she wanted [Barbara] to get the beach house during [Barbara's] lifetime, . . . and the grandchildren [thereafter] so it would stay in the family." William responded, "Fine, mother, if that's what you want."*fn6 In addition to oral statements about her mother's wishes with respect to the Dexter Street and Delaware homes, Barbara referenced notes and letters written by Mrs. Ingersoll concerning the two properties.*fn7
Barbara's testimony also detailed Mrs. Ingersoll's illness and hospitalization in March 1999. In addition to the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, Mrs. Ingersoll was suffering from congestive heart failure.*fn8 She had two operations in March 1999, bypass surgery and another procedure relating to that surgery. Mrs. Ingersoll "was feeling a lot better after the second surgery." On April 1, 1999, the day Mrs. Ingersoll signed documents pertaining to her estate, Barbara was not at the hospital. William's wife "had asked [her] to go look at nursing care" facilities for Mrs. Ingersoll.
Barbara first learned about the contents of her mother's will and trust when she received a letter dated July 11, 2000 from Attorney Rhonda J. MacDonald who was handling the settlement of Mrs. Ingersoll's will and trust. Barbara was "shocked about the foundation . . . and [the fact] that 25% of [her] mother's estate was to go to a foundation and that [Barbara's] brother [William] was going to be in control over 25 percent of this money, and [her] immediate feeling was [William] was going to give this to the Mormon Church. . . ." Mrs. Ingersoll never told Barbara that she would create a foundation. On August 2, 2000, Barbara found her mother's November 10, 1999 note, which specified that the Dexter Avenue house and its contents should go to Barbara.
On cross-examination, Barbara read an excerpt from Mrs. Ingersoll's July 15, 1989 note, see note 7, supra, which states: "I would like to have one of my children buy out my house in DC  Dexter St N.W." Barbara acknowledged writing a letter to Attorney MacDonald, dated July 25, 2000, expressing her intent to purchase the Dexter Street and Delaware properties, but asserted that she wrote the letter before finding her mother's note of November 10, 1999, on August 2, 2000.
The Ingersoll brothers presented several witnesses in their defense. William, the oldest son and an attorney, detailed his efforts to assist his father and mother in working out their testamentary documents and trusts. He recalled that in 1977, his father was ill with cancer and asked him to find an attorney to prepare testamentary documents for the father and mother. On April 15, 1977, Mr. Ingersoll and Mrs. Ingersoll executed trust (marital trust and testamentary trust) and will documents. William and Henry were co-trustees for their parents' estate. Henry left the Metropolitan Washington area in 1986 and became less involved in the management of the estate.
Around 1988, Mrs. Ingersoll informed William that "she wanted to meet with an estate attorney to update her will and documents." Mr. Recht's law firm was in the same building as that of William, and William sought his assistance. Mr. Recht prepared the 1989 documents, and William discussed them with his mother before and after she signed the documents. Sometime after signing the 1989 documents, Mrs. Ingersoll voiced her desire "to do something to create in her will or trust contributions to several different organizations." She mentioned Utah State University from which she graduated, and Brigham Young University which William's father attended, and Georgetown Dental School. Mrs. Ingersoll signed newly prepared documents in July 1993, including her revocable trust.
At Mrs. Ingersoll's request, she, William, and Barbara met with Mr. Recht on July 13, 1995, because Mrs. Ingersoll had received information from Mr. Recht and Mr. Dean "regarding her estate and the need for more planning in her estate." When Barbara asked for clarification concerning her right to purchase the Dexter Street and Delaware properties, William responded that "it had always been" the position of the brothers and Mrs. Ingersoll that Barbara "would be given a first right to purchase the properties after [Mrs. Ingersoll's] death . . . ." Mrs. Ingersoll and Barbara agreed with William's statement. At the same July 13th meeting, Mrs. Ingersoll "said she wanted to provide a substantial part of her estate to charity." Mr. Recht indicated that he would prepare a letter outlining implementation details for the charitable giving. When William received Mr. Recht's letter of July 21, 1995, proposing ways to handle Mrs. Ingersoll's real estate assets, her charitable giving, and Barbara's right to purchase the Dexter Street and Delaware residences, William discussed the matter with his mother. She felt that Mr. Recht's approach "was too complicated" and that "he was doing things that she felt were really not what she wanted to do" because "she didn't want to lose control" over her assets. Mrs. Ingersoll "wanted to find a way to create some charitable giving," but "[s]he basically wanted to do it on a testamentary basis that would be formulated at the time of her death, that would go into effect at the time of her death." Furthermore, she did not want Barbara "to be obligated to buy the property," but she wanted Barbara to have "a first right of refusal to buy those properties" or the right to purchase those properties.
William testified about a charitable giving discussion his mother had, in his presence, on September 8, 1996, at the home of Seth Horne, William's father's "lifetime business partner," who was married to one of Mrs. Ingersoll's distant cousins. Mrs. Ingersoll told Mr. Horne that "she wanted to give money to charity but that she could not figure out a way to do it so that it could be done . . . after her death." Mr. Horne "explained to her that he had established a charitable foundation," and "[h]e went into a fair amount of detail." Mrs. Ingersoll "said she would like to do that." On the return drive to her home, Mrs. Ingersoll repeated that she wanted to create the foundation and instructed William "to get it done." William contacted Jon Deane, a partner in the accounting firm that the family used, because his mother wanted someone new. Mr. Deane had a partner, Mr. Gaffey, who "had somebody that he worked very closely with and [who] was very familiar with setting up foundations and would be able to do the work." Mr. Gaffey recommended Mr. Nudelman whom William had never met. William worked through Mr. Gaffey and never met with Mr. Nudelman. William informed his mother that "the accountants and the attorney needed to know what assets would be going into the foundation." Mrs. Ingersoll "said that she would go through the assets and pick out assets, which she did with his assistance. And, the October 1996 Trust referenced the William Brown Ingersoll and Loraine Boley Ingersoll Foundation. Attached to plaintiff's exhibit 18 and defendants' exhibit 10 of the October 7, 1996 trust amendment signed by Mrs. Ingersoll is Exhibit A, which reads: "WILLIAM BROWN INGERSOLL and LORAINE BOLEY INGERSOLL FOUNDATION. Objects and Purposes."*fn9 Attached to plaintiff's exhibit 69 of the October 7, 1996 trust amendment also is Exhibit A which states:
WILLIAM BROWN INGERSOLL AND LORAINE BOLEY INGERSOLL FOUNDATION Objects and Purposes: To contribute funds for educational, religious (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and humanitarian purposes.
William maintained that he had not seen Exhibit A of the plaintiff's exhibit 69 before the instant litigation. He explained that Mrs. Ingersoll went to his office to execute the 1996 documents which Mr. Nudelman had prepared. She asked William whether "those were the documents that created the foundation." William said, "yes," and went through the documents with his mother. William offered an explanation of why Exhibit A of the 1996 amended trust was not completed on plaintiff's exhibit 18 and defendants' exhibit 10, but was filled in on plaintiff's exhibit 69. Mrs. Ingersoll executed the documents at William's office, but said that she wanted to be specific about Exhibit A, and that she would fill it in herself. Mrs. Ingersoll's signature appears in the margin of both versions of Exhibit A, with the date of execution, October 7, 1996.
In the years after her execution of the 1996 documents, Mrs. Ingersoll's "health began to deteriorate." Around 1998, William testified, his mother "indicated that she wanted to be absolutely sure that the estate documents were in updated condition under current law and that they contained everything that she wanted to be done with her estate." Mrs. Ingersoll mentioned a desire to see John Y. Merrell, a longtime personal friend and a lawyer. William took his mother to a meeting with Mr. Merrell. Mr. Merrell suggested that they consult with an associate in his firm who performed estate work. During a meeting with the associate, Mr. Fergerson, Mrs. Ingersoll expressed "certain concerns regarding the existing foundation," and hence, she "wanted to have her estate documents looked at by another attorney, and reviewed by another attorney, and updated," because "assets . . . [previously designated by Mr. Nudelman] had changed." Mr. Fergerson recommended that they consult with Patrick Vaughn who practiced at another firm. William did not know Mr. Vaughn, but while he was still in Mr. Fergerson's office, called and scheduled a meeting with him on the following day, November 17, 1998. Mrs. Ingersoll met with Mr. Vaughn on November 17, and subsequently, William had discussions with him several times, either with Mr. Deane, or by himself.
Mr. Vaughn and his firm prepared draft documents which were sent to William in January 1999. "[W]ithin a few days [after] receiving [the draft] documents," William met with his mother at his office "probably more than an hour," reviewed and explained the documents to her. She "was interested mainly in . . . the allocation of assets into the foundation, which assets would go into the foundation." Mrs. Ingersoll "wanted to review [the documents] herself," and took copies with her. Three weeks later, William again met with his mother and she posed questions about the grandchildren's trust. Mrs. Ingersoll did not sign the documents on that occasion, but at the end of February 1999, she called William "and said she wanted to execute the documents." William then asked Mr. Vaughn to put the documents in final form. William was delayed in picking up the final version of the documents because of his mother's illness and hospitalization. He picked up the documents from Mr. Vaughn's office "a day or so after [his mother's] operation," not on the 31st of March. On March 31, 1999, when William visited his mother at the hospital, she voiced a desire to sign the documents and asked William to arrange for the signing at the hospital.
William contacted his office to obtain witnesses for the signing. In addition, he called the head nurse at the hospital to alert her and to inquire whether there would be any problem with his mother signing documents; the nurse articulated no objection. On April 1, 1999, William went to his mother's hospital room. She "appeared to be very awake and normal," and "the bed was propped up like she was sitting up so she could look at things."*fn10 William informed his mother that witnesses to the document signing were outside and asked "if she felt okay, whether she felt she could sign the documents" and desired to do so. Mrs. Ingersoll gave an affirmative answer. William placed the documents (trust, will, power of attorney, advanced medical directive, and assignment of personal property) on the hospital table in front of Mrs. Ingersoll. She "asked  if those [were] the documents that she had reviewed before." William responded that the date and notary had been changed; otherwise "they were exactly the same as the documents she had reviewed." William then summoned the witnesses and the notary, and introduced them to his mother. William again asked his mother preliminary questions concerning how she felt, her readiness to sign the documents, and her knowledge of what she would be signing. After Mrs. Ingersoll's responses revealed that she was prepared to proceed with the signing, William read ...