Undue Influence in Will Contests

To be valid, a will in Texas must express the makers intent.  Often, the makers intent is overridden by those who have influence over the maker given the makers advanced age, dependence on the person, or family or social circumstances.  This undue influence can provide grounds to contest a will in Texas.

What is Undue Influence?

Influence becomes “undue” when it causes an individual to do something that they would not have done without the influence.  When there is evidence of undue influence, interested persons can challenge the validity of the resulting will in court.

To prove undue influence, all of the following must be true:

  1. the existence and exertion of an influence,
  2. the effective operation of that influence so as to subvert or overpower the decedent’s mind at the time of the execution of the testament, and
  3. the execution of a will which the maker would not have executed but for such influence.

Proving Undue Influence in Texas

The burden to prove the existence of undue influence falls on the persons contesting the will.  It is often a difficult burden to prove.

There are a number of factors Texas courts consider when determining whether undue influence has occurred during the execution of a will, including the following:

  1. the circumstances regarding the execution of the will,
  2. the relationship between the decedent and beneficiaries,
  3. the motive, character, and conduct of those who benefit under the will,
  4. participation, words, and acts of all parties attending the execution of the will,
  5. the physical and mental condition of the decedent at the time of the execution.
  6. the age, weakness, infirmity, and dependency on or subjection to the control of the beneficiary, and
  7. the improvidence of the transaction by reason of unjust, unreasonable, or unnatural disposition.

Showing only that a person had the opportunity to exercise influence over the decedent; that the decedent was susceptible to influence; or the existence of an unnatural disposition is not sufficient to prove undue influence.

The Overpower Freewill Standard

To be successful the persons bringing the will contest, the party must show that the influence overpowered the free will of the testator and, the will produced expresses the wishes of the person exerting the influence rather than the decedent’s wishes.

Similar to undue influence, another possibility is that the decedent lacked the requisite mental capacity to execute a will. Let’s consider that topic next. .  Click here to continue reading.  >>>>

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