Nebraska’s highest court declares a deceased woman’s marriage void and reverses financial transactions she made benefiting her husband, finding that she lacked the mental capacity to enter into the marriage. Malousek v. Meyer (Neb., No. S-20-470, July 30, 2021).
Molly Stacey and Steven Greg Meyer began living together in 2009. In 2015, Ms. Stacey was diagnosed with cancer. The cancer spread and her condition deteriorated. A few weeks before she died, Ms. Stacey married Mr. Meyer. She also named him a joint owner on two bank accounts, changed the beneficiary designations on her other accounts to name Mr. Meyer and his son, and executed quitclaim deeds on her houses to leave them to Mr. Meyer on her death.
After Ms. Stacey died without a will, her children filed a declaratory judgment action against Mr. Meyer and his son, seeking to have the marriage be annulled and the property transactions declared void. The children argued that Ms. Stacey’s actions resulted from undue influence and that she lacked capacity due to her illness. They produced evidence that she had declared she never wanted to marry, that she didn’t want Mr. Meyer to have her assets, and that she was isolated and incoherent at the time of the marriage. The trial court found in favor of the children, and Mr. Meyer appealed.
The Nebraska Supreme Court affirms, holding that the marriage is void because Ms. Stacey lacked mental capacity. According to the court, given the witness credibility, “the evidence of [Ms. Stacey’s] mental incapacity at the time of the marriage and disputed transactions, and the evidence that the marriage and disputed transactions ran contrary to the plans [Ms. Stacey] consistently expressed to her friends and family through the years, we find that there was clear and convincing evidence that [Ms. Stacey] lacked the capacity to marry [Mr. Meyer} or complete the disputed financial transactions.”
For the full text of this decision, go to: https://cdn.elderlawanswers.com/common/uploads/documents/18421-Malousek.pdf