Effect of Undue Influence on the Validity of a Will
Can a Will Be Invalidated as a Result of Undue Influence?
A will can be invalidated if the wishes of the testator (the individual making the will) were changed as a result of the influence of an outside party. If, while in the process of drafting a will, an outside party exerts influence over the individual in such a way that affects the actual disbursements in the will, then this may be considered "undue influence" and invalidate the will.
How Can Undue Influence Be Proven?
To prove undue influence, the contesting party must show:
- the influence was of such a degree that the testator's mental controls were overcome, and
- the will gives property to a person who normally would not have received the inheritance.
For instance, if a will includes beneficiaries who would not normally be considered likely heirs but who had the opportunity to exert pressure to get included, then this may be a case of "undue influence." A general influence over the individual is not sufficient to invalidate a will if there is no indication that the resulting disbursements are not unusual or unexpected.
What Factors May Prove Undue Influence?
Courts have often considered certain factors to determine whether there has been undue influence:
- Presence of the beneficiary when the will was executed
- Presence of the beneficiary when the testator discusses his or her intentions
- Recommendation by the beneficiary of an attorney to draft the will
- Knowledge by the beneficiary of the contents of the will
- Instructions made to the attorney by the beneficiary
- Securing of witnesses for the will by the beneficiary
- Possession of the will by the beneficiary after its execution
Determining whether influence has been significant enough to invalidate a will depends on the specific circumstances and courts have been given a great deal of latitude in their determinations.
Do I Need an Attorney to Contest a Will for Lack of Mental Competence?
Evaluating the possible effects of undue influence is a complicated process that is open to much interpretation. An initial review of the circumstances by an experienced attorney will help evaluate the likelihood of a successful will contest for undue influence.
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Last Modified: 08-02-2012 11:24 AM PDT