The inheritance rights of loved ones are defeated if the testator is under the undue influence of another. To set aside a will on the basis of a claim of undue influence the contestant must prove…
- the existence and exercise of an influence upon the testator,
- which operated to subvert or overpower the testator’s mind at the time the will was executed, and…
- such that the execution would not have occurred but for the undue influence.
The doctrine of undue influence derives from English courts. A will contest heard by Sir Francis Bacon as the Lord Chancellor of England in 1617 illustrates common aspects of the process of undue influence which emerged in the context of a will contest. These aspects include frail health, and physical dependency, false affection, relationship poisoning, threats and mistreatment, and involvement in the execution of documents by and in favor of the alleged abuser. You can view an article about the history of undue influence here -> UNDUE INFLUENCE: DEFINITIONS AND APPLICATIONS.
The courts have defined the question as whether “. . . the testator’s free agency was destroyed and . . . his will overcome by excessive importunity, imposition or fraud, so that the will does not, in fact, express his wishes as to the disposition of the property, but those of the persons exercising the influence.”
“The exercise of undue influence may be accomplished in many different ways – directly and forcibly, as at the point of a gun; but also by fraud, deceit, artifice and indirection; by subtle and devious, but nonetheless forcible and effective means.”
Undue influence “may be exercised through threats or fraud or the silent power of a strong mind over a weak one.”
There is an article on our blog about relationship poisoning and undue influence.
By Robert Ray a Texas inheritance attorney. The foregoing information is general in nature and does not apply to every fact situation. If you are concerned about Texas inheritance laws, inheritance rights, probate limits, have a family inheritance dispute, a property dispute or want to know the reasons for contesting a will or protecting a will from a contest and need an inheritance lawyer, we can help. Please click on the “Contact Us” tab above and use the contact form to contact us today. We are Texas inheritance lawyers and would love to learn about your case. There is no fee for the initial consultation.
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