What You Need To Know About Undue Influence
Unscrupulous people often prey on the elderly and ill to financially exploit; this is usually done through undue influence. The litigation team at Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. explains what constitutes undue influence, how it can be proven, and the process to contest a will.
What is Undue Influence?
The American Bar Association defines undue influence as the "excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person's free will and results in inequity." Unfortunately, many older people are targeted through this type of deceit, ending with their wishes not being reflected in their wills. Most undue influence cases are seen in probate courts with petitions for guardianships, conservatorships, and disputed wills and trusts. Here are some examples of what undue influence may look like:
- An estranged family member threatening a person until they sign a document
- A caretaker manipulates a senior into adding them to a will
- A partner isolates an incapacitated person and takes over their finances
Proving Undue Influence
The validity of a will could be challenged in court if a testator signed the will because of coercion, manipulation, duress, or influence. To establish the presumption of undue influence, the following three elements must be proven about the influencer:
- They received some substantial benefits from the will;
- Had a close and trusting relationship with the creator of the will; and
- Actively procured the will.
Once these are proven, the burden of proof shifts to the beneficiary to prove that there was no undue influence.
It is often difficult to prove undue influence because we cannot know the thoughts that someone, who may no longer be around, was thinking when the will was made. However, with the assistance of an experienced probate attorney, you can dispute the document's validity in front of the court.
Your Next Step
Florida has a very short time limit to dispute a will. It is of utmost importance to act quickly at the first signs of foul play in creating a will. Our seasoned team of attorneys has over 25 years of experience assisting clients in contesting wills, and we can help you.