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Sometimes the best way to understand a complex situation is to look at the worst case scenario. You know, the scenario where every possible thing that can go wrong – intentionally or accidentally – does go wrong. So, about undue influence. Here’s a summary of what may well be the most egregious example in the last 25 years or so.
Rita Casoni came to the United States from Parma, Italy as a young child in 1952. Her family moved to the North End of Boston where they became fast friends with the Moretti family, particularly the three siblings, all in their forties. The Morettis owned an apartment building in the North End – it should be noted here that the North End of Boston in the 50’s and 60’s was very much like the old Prince Spaggethi commercial:
a commercial filmed in Rita’s neighborhood.
Rita and her husband moved into the Moretti’s building in 1977. Her, her husband, their children and even their young grandchildren were regular visitors with the Morettis. Rita was a licensed social worker at the North End Community Health Center, just down the street. The families, in other words, were very close.
Two of the Moretti siblings died in the late ’80’s, Rita comforted the survivor, Lawrence, took care of all the funeral arrangements, was, by all accounts, a huge help.
Very shortly after, Lawrence, in his late seventies, began to have health problems. Rita pitched in to help. Lawrence was lucky, while he had no remaining family, he had a close group of friends around him, all people he had known for decades. Beside Rita and her extended family, he had Teresa Antonelli who had lived in his building for ages and dropped in all the time. He had a close friend, a nun, Mary Bergazzi, who visited, hung out, and handled all his financial affairs. He had a neighborhood attorney, a man he met in a garden party down the street. He had handled the estates of Lawrence’s siblings and did all the legal work necessary for the apartment building. He regularly visited Lawrence outside of work. As did Rena Bucchino who lived around the corner and had visited Lawrence regularly for over twenty years.
In 1989, the lawyer drew up a will that left the apartment building to Rita and set up a life estate in one of the apartments for Teresa. Power of attorney was granted to Rita. Lawrence took care of his great neighborhood family.
As the court put it later, “Moretti enjoyed warm relationships with the members of this trusted circle, conversing comfortably with them and joking with them during their visits.”
In 1990, Lawrence suffered some severe health problems. He did not want to go into a nursing home, the group of friends pulled together to help … in every way.
Rita hired someone she had counseled at the health center, Romano Pagliarani, to move in with Lawrence and see to his everyday needs. That, of course, is when the problems started.
If you’ve been following out blog you may think you know what’s coming … tune in next week to see if you’re right.
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