NEW ORLEANS -- A state judge has awarded Southeastern Louisiana University the contested estate of one of its earliest graduates, ruling that the octogenarian alumnus was coerced into cutting the school out of her will.
Judge Ernest Drake ruled that Myra Larue was unfit when she dropped the university from her will 13 days before she died at age 88. That means the school will get Larue's house and land in Greensburg, displacing Larue's niece and elderly sister.
The Greensburg property is valued at $380,000.
Larue was one of Southeastern’s earliest graduates, a former cheerleader at the school who went on to a career as a physical education teacher in New Orleans. When she retired, she moved to a house on 11 acres of land in Greensburg, about half an hour from the university.
In her original will, Larue – who had no children – donated the property to the school. But after Larue became sick with brain cancer, she changed her plans, donating everything to her sister, Mary Darouse Pardue, and three nieces.
Pardue and one of the nieces continued to live in the house after taking care of Pardue in her final days.
Pardue, 88, said she was heartbroken by the judge’s ruling.
“I have been defending my sister’s right to make her last will and testament,” Pardue said. “We are a fourth generation Louisiana family. When the judge’s final ruling is signed, it will be a sad day for my late sister’s rights and wishes, for her family, and for Louisiana.”
In his 178-page ruling, Drake ruled that Larue’s final will was invalid because of her diminished capacity.
“This Court believes that it has been shown by a clear and convincing standard that it is highly probable that the said will of Oct. 9, 2010 was the product of undue influence, fraud or distress,” Drake wrote.
Larue’s family, however, claimed that University fundraisers took advantage of Larue in her sunset years.
In a letter to the Baton Rouge Advocate in October, Larue’s nephew, Rusty, wrote, “My aunt apparently fell for the frequent social attention from those who started befriending her and cultivating her financially after her husband died.”
During the nine-day trial over the contested will, Drake did not allow any evidence of the university’s well-documented solicitation of Larue, who donated more than $30,000 to the school while she was living.
Attorneys for the family said they are considering whether to appeal the ruling.