Apr 27, 2015 6:10 PM
DOVER - The hearing over a disputed multimillion dollar estate that was left in a will to a Portsmouth police officer began this morning in the 7th Circuit Probate Division at Strafford County court.
Judge Gary Cassavechia is tasked with deciding whether or not Geraldine Webber, a Portsmouth woman who died when she was 93-years-old in 2012, was competent enough to change and sign the will in favor of then-Portsmouth Police Detective Aaron Goodwin.
There are two central issues that are at the heart of the hearing: competency, and whether Webber fully comprehended her decision in changing her will - and whether Goodwin used undue influence to convince Webber to do so.
Day one primarily focused on Webber’s memory, mental competency and her relationship with her physician of more than 20 years, Dr. Ira Schwartz.
Attorney David Eby, who says Goodwin used his influence as a police officer to convince Webber to change her will in his favor, asked Schwartz if Webber had the mental ability to understand her will.
The courtroom was also full of about a dozen other lawyers, representing prior beneficiaries – such as Shriner’s Hospital, Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Webber’s disabled grandson - that would have received much more of Webber’s estate before it was changed in Goodwin’s favor.
The estate is valued at $2.7 million, the majority of which was left to Goodwin in her last will. It included Webber’s home, a Cadillac, stocks and bonds.
“From the medical point of view, I think she was impaired enough not to have been able to come to appropriate decision making,” Schwartz testified.
But attorneys on Goodwin’s behalf painted the picture of Goodwin who was there for Webber when no one else was - ensuring she got to appointments and took the right medications on time.
Schwartz told Goodwin’s attorney, Charles Doleac, that Webber’s health improved during the time he assisted her.
In addition to Schwartz, Attorney James Ritzo also testified as Webber’s longtime attorney who assisted her with all of her wills before the one that favored Goodwin.
He testified that Webber always wanted to give back to her community – particularly the City of Portsmouth’s police and fire departments.
Goodwin, who has since been promoted to sergeant at the Portsmouth Police Department was not in the courtroom Monday.
The hearing resumes Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
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