Undue Influence And Wills and Trusts

Fri 15th Jul, 2022 General

Important estate planning tools such as wills and trusts let people specify what will happen to their property once they pass away. However, these devices do not always properly convey the departed’s wishes. Before passing away, the individual may have been a victim of undue influence. Undue influence occurs when someone in a position of trust or authority takes advantage of another person to overcome their true testamentary intent and illegally causes the individual to execute a will or trust, giving the influencer all or a portion of their wealth. It is commonly used to influence the division of an estate in the favored beneficiary’s own favor. 

An example of undue influence would be when an individual develops a special relationship with the grantor to influence many types of estate-related favoritism, such as estate division, being named life insurance beneficiary, receiving gifts while the loved one is still alive, etc. 

How To Prove Undue Influence? 

Undue influence infringes not only on the rights of the deceased but also on the rights those of beneficiaries, heirs, and family members who would have otherwise stood to inherit assets absent the undue influence. If undue influence is proved in court, a will or trust can be ruled invalid. If you suspect your loved one was a victim of undue influence, you must contest the will or trust in court. 

Unfortunately, undue influence is challenging to prove as people who coerce or trick an elderly or sick person into giving them assets frequently behave secretively. Many are in a position to isolate the testator from those who could see what’s happening and step in. For this reason, the court will take into account the totality of the facts and circumstances as they examine the claim. 

Factors Needed To Prove Undue Influence In Florida 

The individual contesting the will or trust in Florida alleging undue influence must prove the following:

  • Under the terms of the will, the individual accused of undue influence would stand receive substantial benefits, 
  • The testator and the accused had a confidential relationship, and
  • The person accused of undue influence actively participated in the will’s procurement.

Since the third consideration is often difficult to prove, the court will examine framework commonly referred to as Carpenter factors:

  • The beneficiary’s presence during the will’s execution.
  • The presence of the beneficiary when the testator expressed a desire to make the will.
  • The beneficiary gave a recommendation for the lawyer who created the will. 
  • The beneficiary has prior knowledge of the will’s contents before execution.
  • The beneficiary provided the attorney drawing the will with instructions on how to prepare the will. 
  • The beneficiary secured witnesses to the will.
  • The beneficiary kept the will in his possession after it was executed.

How Can I Get the Help I Need?

Here at Purcell, Flanagan, Hay & Greene, we have attorneys who are skilled and experienced with the law regarding undue influence. We can help protect your rightful inheritance. Our attorneys can also prepare your estate planning documents, including trusts, powers of attorney, living wills, etc. Contact us today because there are deadlines to file a claim.