Estate planning with wills and trusts is supposed to make inheritance easy and straightforward. However, there may be cases where undue influence becomes apparent and complicates the entire situation. In today’s blog from Davidson Law Group, we help define and identify undue influence in estate planning with a will and trust.
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What Is Undue Influence?
Undue influence for a will and trust case is a technical term for someone who tries to manipulate another person during estate planning. The overall goal of the manipulator is to gain financial assets from a person who is planning their estate. For example, a long-lost distant relative suddenly starts talking to your grandmother on a daily basis in an attempt to get her to change her will. The only way to challenge undue influence in Texas is to file a lawsuit in probate court.
Looking for Undue Influence
Courts will look at the facts of undue influence in a probate case. Before that happens, you should contact an estate attorney to help you document the details. Common examples of undue influence include:
Unexpected gifts. Did your relative leave his or her estate to someone you didn’t expect? A spouse, siblings, children, or grandchildren are logical heirs for someone with a family. If someone else unexpectedly received the inheritance, undue influence may be a factor.
Isolation. Was the person making the will isolated from close friends and family? Someone who tries to influence a relative often speaks to this person alone and away from other people. The goal is to make your relative dependent on the influencer.
State of health or mind. Courts will examine the physical and mental state of the person who left an estate to someone you didn’t expect. People who need around-the-clock care, are frail, or going through some kind of dementia might come under the influence of someone else during will and trust planning.
Special relationship. Look for someone who has a special relationship with your relative outside of close friends or family. Think housekeepers, caretakers, in-home medical staff, or people who have regular contact with your relative.
Proving Undue Influence in Texas Law
Texas courts have certain requirements for proving undue influence in probate. You must prove:
- The existence of undue influence.
- The operation of that influence subverted or overpowered your relative’s mind at the time he or she made out a will or trust.
- The person would not have made this decision without the influence.
If you suspect your relative was the victim of undue influence, an estate planning attorney can represent you in court.
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Contact Davidson Law Group
The attorneys at Davidson Law Group are knowledgeable about will and trust cases. We’ll examine your case, whether you want to plan your estate or if you feel a relative is making a huge mistake. Contact our law firm today in Fort Worth, Allen, or Tyler.