Estate Disputes: Undue Influence
‘Undue influence’ may be proved by showing:
- the existence of a confidential relationship between the testator and the individual alleged to have unduly influenced the testator;
- a propensity on the testator’s part–whether by reason of old age, mental infirmity or otherwise–to have his or her free will usurped by the individual exercising undue influence; and
- the execution of a will ‘unduly benefiting’ the person alleged to have influenced the testator.
A beneficiary who stood in a ‘confidential relationship’ with the testator and actively participated in the will’s execution, ‘unduly profiting’ thereby, must overcome a presumption of undue influence. In any event, the case normally must be established circumstantially through inferences. But proof of circumstances consistent with undue influence is not itself sufficient—the proof must be of circumstances inconsistent with the testator’s voluntary action.
Possible items of circumstantial evidence include:
- ‘Unnatural’ testamentary provisions;
- Testamentary dispositions apparently at odds with the testator’s stated intentions and desires during life (before or after execution of will or as reflected in earlier testamentary documents);
- Close relationship with a beneficiary, which presented opportunity for the exercise of undue influence;
- Participation by a major beneficiary in procuring execution of the will.
If you believe that you were left out of a will or trust as a result of undue influence, contact our lawyers for a full, no obligation, and confidential evaluation of your potential claim.