What is Undue Influence?
When individuals contest or challenge a will, undue influence is perhaps the biggest reason why. This is a claim that someone manipulated or used an unfair advantage over a person making a will. In most cases, the person influencing the other is a close acquaintance or trusted family member. Because the person making the will is often ill or lacks the mental competency to make decisions associated with their will, they are completely dependent upon the party influencing their decision. Yet, in the event that a jury finds that undue influence played a role in one’s will, it becomes void, as reported by Legaleeze.
Proving undue influence in the state of Georgia requires a jury to consider the following:
- Destruction of Free Agency: When individuals become too sick to care for themselves or unable to make decisions regarding their estate or will, this lack of independence puts them at risk for being unduly taken advantage of. When fear or force is used, or when individuals are coerced to the point where their will power, or “free agency” is destroyed, this is undue influence. A jury will also consider the degree of persuasion, as well as the method used to influence the dependent individual.
- Substituted Will: When a person’s will reflects significant changes, especially ones in favor of a close family member or caretaker, there is usually just cause for contesting a will for undue influence.
- Operative At The Time of Execution and Publication: A critical element of challenging a will in Georgia requires individuals to prove that the undue influence was operative on the mind of the influencer at the time that it was executed and published. Specifically, juries will look at the amount of time between when the will was put together and when it was signed. A shorter amount of time between these two actions implies that the influencer was intentionally engaging in undue influence.
Given the complexities associated with planning, preparing, and executing a will, along with the dynamic of relationships among family, friends, and other confidential relationships, individuals contesting a will need an experienced attorney at their side.
If you feel as though a loved one was unduly influenced into changing their will, the experienced attorneys at Shepard, Plunkett, & Hamilton LLP will provide the focused attention your case deserves. Call us today.
Posted on behalf of Shepard, Plunkett and Hamilton, LLP