PROVING UNDUE INFLUENCE
Sept. 8, 2017
To have an otherwise valid will thrown out of probate court, it is normally necessary to prove that someone unduly influenced the testator to write the will in his or her favor. Although this may be difficult to prove, it is not impossible.
In estate law, wills are assumed to be valid if all of the legal formalities were done properly. If the will was signed by the deceased, witnessed and notarized, then it is assumed to be valid.
This is necessary because there is no way for a judge to ask a deceased person if the will presented in court accurately describes how they wanted to distribute their estate.
Overcoming that assumption of validity can be very difficult to do.
In most cases, it requires proving that someone pressured or unduly influenced the testator into making a will in his or her favor.
However, since the deceased cannot be called into court to testify about any pressure put on him or her by an individual, proving undue influence is difficult.
But it is not impossible, as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog recently discussed in "Corpus Christi Court Upholds Undue Influence Verdict."
The article discusses one particular case where a Texas jury found undue influence.
That verdict was upheld by the court. While the details of the case are not necessarily important, what is important is that undue influence does not necessarily require definitive proof. In fact, circumstantial evidence can support a finding of undue influence.
If you think a will is invalid because of undue influence, consult with an estate attorney. Your case will be difficult, but it might not be impossible to prove.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (August 11, 2017) "Corpus Christi Court Upholds Undue Influence Verdict."