September 25. 2013 11:13PM

Attorney General eyes elderly Portsmouth woman's bequest to police officer

Union Leader Correspondent

BRENTWOOD — The state Attorney General’s Office entered into a lawsuit that is contesting the estate of an elderly Portsmouth woman who left the bulk of her $1 million estate to a local police sergeant just prior to her death.

Anne Edwards, interim director of the state’s Division Charitable Trusts, has filed an appearance on behalf of the “public interest,” regarding the estate of Geraldine Webber, according to court records.

Webber died on Dec. 11 at the age of 93.

Last year, Webber made Portsmouth police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin the primary benefactor to her estate, which includes a waterfront home on Sagamore Creek and a variety of other assets. The change cut out or reduced inheritances for several other heirs, which include charitable organizations, the city of Portsmouth’s police and fire departments and a Massachusetts high school.

Those groups have since filed appearances as interested parties, but noted they took no position on the validity of a change Webber made to her will before she died.

Jim Ritzo, Webber’s lawyer for nearly 25 years, became the first to challenge the will earlier this year, suggesting that Goodwin asserted undue influence over his former client.

David Eby, an attorney representing Shriners Hospital for Children and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, suggested earlier this month that the state become an interested party because Webber left behind a charitable trust, according to court records.

Goodwin’s lawyer, Charles Doleac, adamantly denied that his client committed any wrongdoing regarding his interaction with Webber. She and Goodwin met in November 2010, about 18 months before her will was changed, according to Doleac.

“Aaron Goodwin never tried to influence or convince Mrs. Webber to modify her already existing estate plan,” Doleac wrote in a motion filed earlier this month.

“Aaron Goodwin did, by reporting the situation to the proper authorities, aid Geraldine W. Webber in preventing her former attorney from maintaining control over (her) against her will during her life under a power of attorney,” Doleac said in the court motion.

He said in his motion that the Attorney General’s Office ultimately intervened on Webber’s behalf to keep her former attorney from contacting her. After that, Webber changed her will to add Goodwin as a beneficiary.

Doleac has asked Probate Judge Peter Hurd to toss out challenges made to Webber’s 2012 will.