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Relatives say hospital coerced millionaire woman out of her money

Heirs of a millionaire are suing the hospital that took care of her for the last 20 years of her life, alleging that the facility overstepped its bounds to get money before her death and to be included in her will. Relatives say the case, which has garnered international attention, is not just about getting their money. It's about inappropriate behavior, including medical professionals who coerced an ill woman into giving them money, the family says.

The woman was admitted into the medical facility in 1991 and remained there until her death in 2011 at the age of 104. During those 20 years, she donated at least $4 million and left the facility another $1 million in her will. The woman also donated a Manet painting, which was sold by the hospital. All the donations were in addition to the millions she paid to live there at a rate of $1,200 per day.

Allegedly, the conspiracy goes all the way to the top to include the hospital's chief executive, whose mother befriended the ill woman, watching television with her and discussing her will.

Court documents reveal e-mails between hospital executives discussing the woman's wealth and what relatives call a fund-raising campaign. The facility researched her history, bestowed her with gifts and had high-ranking executives pay her special attention. The court appointed a temporary administrator of the woman's estate who has been highly critical of the hospital, as well as the woman's accountant, lawyer, private nurse and doctor, all of whom are beneficiaries.

The hospital asserts the woman was of sound mind and gave the donations willingly. Her estate planning reflected the compassionate care she was grateful to receive.

It's not uncommon for a will to be contested. However, individuals can take steps to make sure their wishes are understood and carried out. Regardless of how much wealth a person has, an experienced estate planning attorney can provide guidance about what tools can work best for a person's circumstances and desires.

Source: Source: The New York Times, "Hospital Caring for an Heiress Pressed Her to Give Lavishly," Anemona Hartocollis, May 29, 2013

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