The Seven Signs of Undue Influence
Can you challenge someone’s will just because you are upset that they did not leave you as much money as you were hoping to get? Sure, but it is unlikely that the court will change its decision to administer the will as it is written. A will is a legally binding statement of a person’s wishes about what the person wants to happen to his or her property when he or she dies. The court takes the will at its word unless there is reason to do otherwise. For example, sometimes an interested party alleges that the decedent’s signature on the will is forged. In other cases, the petitioner alleges that the decedent did not fully understand the consequences of the provisions he wrote in the will; this might be the case if the person was suffering from dementia, having a manic episode, or under the influence of drugs when he wrote and signed the will. Some of the most emotionally challenging cases are those that involved undue influence, where the decedent signed the will under all the legally required conditions, but another person deceived, pressured, or intimidated him into doing so. If you are the personal representative of an estate for which the decedent’s family member is alleging undue influence, or if you believe that your recently deceased relative signed his or her will under duress, contact a Central Florida probate lawyer.
What Does Undue Influence Look Like?
How do courts decide cases about undue influence? How does the judge know whether the decedent signed the will under duress or whether it is just a case of sour grapes on the part of the petitioner? Every case is unique, but there are some details that lend credibility to allegations that the decedent changed her will because of undue influence and not because she genuinely wished to change it. Probate courts take the following as signs that undue influence played a role in the creation of a new will:
- The idea to write a new will came originally from the beneficiary (the person receiving a disproportionately large share of the estate), not from the decedent.
- If an attorney drafted the will, the person who initially contacted the attorney was the beneficiary, not the decedent.
- The beneficiary hired the attorney at his own expense; the decedent is not the one who paid for the attorney’s services.
- The beneficiary went with the decedent to the law office so the decedent could sign the will in the presence of witnesses.
- The witnesses were people the decedent met through the beneficiary or the lawyer.
- Even if the beneficiary did not sign as a witness, the beneficiary was present when the decedent signed the will.
- The beneficiary, not the decedent, kept possession of the signed will.
Contact an Attorney Today for Help
If you were unjustly disinherited because your deceased relative changed his or her will under duress, a Tampa probate lawyer can help. Contact David Toback for a consultation on your case.