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Florida Probate Blog

Posts Tagged: undue influence

Psychological Aspects of Undue Influence

Written by on Jul 8, 2009| Posted in: General

I recently read the following article, which was written by Dr. Ira Turkat, a psychologist in Florida, and found it fascinating because it addresses many of the issues I encounter in the undue influence cases that I litigate.  With Dr. Turkat’s permission, I am reproducing this very insightful article on my blog. Psychological Aspects of Undue Influence By Ira Daniel Turkat Undue influence refers to a person’s free will being usurped by the will of another. The problem is of significant concern when dealing with deeds, trusts, and wills of the elderly or the debilitated. Frail individuals with significant financial assets are vulnerable targets for persons seeking advantage. When such manipulations occur, the consequences can be devastating. Manipulating a person’s free will is essentially a psychological phenomenon. As such, a firm understanding of the psychological processes that underlie undue influence can be of enormous benefit to the attorney involved in these matters. This is […]

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Revocable Trusts and Undue Influence

Written by on May 29, 2009| Posted in: Trust Litigation

Court of Appeals Expands Reach of Genova There is growing concern over our legislature’s inability to make laws protecting the elderly and vulnerable against having their revocable trust funds taken from them during their lives. This is a topic I have previously discussed. (See blog dated September 25, 2008, Undue Influence and Trust Revocation.) The problems addressed in my earlier blog articles arise from the Florida Supreme Court’s opinion issued twenty-five years ago in Florida National Bank of Palm Beach County v. Genova, 460 So. 2d 895 (Fla. 1984). As is evident from the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruling this week in MacIntyre v. Wedell, (Fla. 4th DCA, 08-754), 34 Fla.L.Weekly D1011a (May 20, 2009), Genova is alive and will remain so unless and until our elected officials decide to change the law.

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Assessing Testamentary Capacity

Written by on Dec 10, 2008| Posted in: Estate Litigation

A Call For Help from the Probate Bar to the Psychology Clinicians The dramatic increase of cases challenging the validity of wills based on the deficient mental capacity of the person making the will has been measured, verified, and commented on by many legal observers. The reason for the increase in probate litigation is subject to debate; however, I have found in my discussions with other trust and estate practitioners that most will agree the relevant factors causing the increase include the rapidly growing number of older persons with medical and psychiatric problems affecting their mental and cognitive ability; the tremendous transfer of wealth taking place between the World War II and baby boomer generations and the change in the traditional nuclear family. See Daniel Marson and Laurie Zebley, The Other Side of the Retirement Years: Cognitive Decline, Dementia, and Loss of Financial Capacity, 41 Ret.Plan. 30 (2001); Harold T. […]

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Estate of Carpenter

Written by on Oct 24, 2008| Posted in: Probate Litigation

In Re:  Estate of Carpenter – the presumption of undue influence in Florida and the Florida Probate Code. I have written at great length of the various factors I assess when determining whether to accept a case for prosecution. I now turn my attention to the Florida decisional case law from the Florida Supreme Court in the seminal case of In re Estate of Carpenter, 253 So.2d 697 (Fla. 1971) its practical application, and the Florida legislature’s response through enactment of section 733.107 of the Florida Probate Code which today supersedes Carpenter. When the validity of a will or trust is challenged based upon the theory of undue influence, the challenger must prove the instrument at issue (will or trust document) resulted from the exercise of undue influence on the mind of the person executing the will or trust instrument. The Carpenter decision from the Florida Supreme Court sets forth […]

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Undue Influence: Lawyers Who Name Themselves or Family Members as Beneficiaries of Wills

Written by on Oct 21, 2008| Posted in: Probate Litigation

All too often I am asked to investigate and ultimately prosecute will contests which involve attorneys playing an active role, not only in the procurement of the will, but in having themselves or their relatives named as beneficiaries under the will. The Florida Supreme Court has adopted a portion of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Responsibility, and in particular, the prohibition against lawyers playing a role in the drafting and execution of a will or trust where they are named as a beneficiary. Rule 4-1.8. Conflict of Interest; Prohibited and Other Transactions (c) Gifts to Lawyer or Lawyer’s Family. A lawyer shall not solicit any substantial gift from a client, including a testamentary gift, or prepare on behalf of a client an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer any substantial gift unless the lawyer or other recipient of the gift is related […]

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Amazing Grace: Religion and Undue Influence

Written by on Oct 17, 2008| Posted in: Estate Litigation

It is no secret that many priests, clergyman, and spiritual advisors, share a deep, committed and trusting relationship with their followers and church congregation. The degree and extent of this trust grows with time, and recent cases I have handled in Florida lead me to conclude that the elderly often share a very special relationship with their spiritual advisors and others who the elderly person views as in a position of religious authority or spiritual leadership. Because the nature of this relationship often equates with what the law defines as a confidential relationship, some legal commentators have recently suggested that the law creates a per se rule raising the presumption of undue influence when an eleventh hour will is executed and religious leaders are active in its procurement, or involved in the will’s preparation and are named as beneficiaries. As Professor Jeffrey G. Sherman recently stated: “The best solution to […]

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Do I Have a Case? The Presumption of Undue Influence?

Written by on Oct 14, 2008| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Do I Have a Case? (Part Four) As I have indicated in prior posts, there are certain categories of evidence that I look for in order to prove undue influence, which has been defined by Florida courts as conduct amounting to overpersuasion, duress, force, coercion, or artful or fraudulent contrivances to such a degree that the free agency and will power of the testator is destroyed. In re Carpenter’s Estate, 253 So. 2d 697 (Fla. 1971). In Florida, the legislature has created a presumption of undue influence.  What does this mean?

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Do I Have a Case? What Evidence Points to the Conclusion of Undue Influence?

Written by on Oct 8, 2008| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Do I Have a Case?  (Part Three) As I have indicated in prior posts, there are certain categories of evidence that I look for in order to prove undue influence and then the case develops and follows the facts that are discovered. Undue influence has been defined by Florida courts as conduct amounting to overpersuasion, duress, force, coercion, or artful or fraudulent contrivances to such a degree that the free agency and will power of the testator is destroyed. In re Carpenter’s Estate, 253 So. 2d 697 (Fla. 1971).

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What Evidence Points to the Conclusion of Undue Influence?

Written by on Oct 2, 2008| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Do I have a Case? (Part Two) As I have indicated in prior posts, there are certain categories of evidence that I look for in order to prove undue influence and then the case develops and follows the facts that are discovered. Undue influence has been defined by Florida courts as conduct amounting to over-persuasion, duress, force, coercion, or artful or fraudulent contrivances to such a degree that the free agency and will power of the testator is destroyed. In re Carpenter’s Estate, 253 So. 2d 697 (Fla. 1971).

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Florida Will Contest: Can a Will Be Challenged Based On Decedent’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse?

Written by on Oct 1, 2008| Posted in: Probate Litigation

Florida Will Contest:  Can a Will Be Challenged Based On Decedent’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse? Earlier I noted that many will contests center on an elderly Floridian suffering from the infirmities of age and the ingestion of prescription drugs to combat their mental deterioration caused by the progression of the many forms of dementia. Equally important are challenges to the testamentary capacity of a person making a will in Florida where that person is a drug addict and/or suffers from alcoholism.

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