This article is about ways that people exert undue influence in Texas to obtain the property or estate of others.
Undue influence can take many forms. In a 2020 Texas case, Buford, a man with a below average IQ hired a private investigator, Tait, whose name he found in a phone book, to help him. Tait’s assistant was Irene Rueda.
Undue influence example. Tait and Rueda soon began providing Buford with other services, including cleaning, cooking, bill paying, shopping, and running errands. In fact, Rueda testified that she saw Buford almost every day for three years until his death in August of 2015. During these three years, Tait and Rueda submitted numerous invoices to Buford, billing him tens of thousands of dollars for their investigation and other services. In addition, Buford gave both Tait, Rueda, and their family members bonuses and gifts, including a $5,000.00 gift to Tait’s wife, despite the fact that Buford had admittedly never met his wife. In addition, the record contains evidence that Buford made large cash withdrawals from his account during the time that Tait and Rueda were providing services to him, some of which were signed by Tait, acting on Buford’s behalf.
Tait prepared wills
Buford did not have a will when he first met Tait and Rueda. Several wills were prepared by Tait and signed or written out by Buford. The will gave Tait and Rueda all of the real and personal property and $300,000 to Tait and $200,000 to Rueda. The total value was about 2.4 million dollars.
When the will was filed for probate, the cousins of Buford, his closest relatives, contested it. The jury ruled that the will were written under undue influence. Tait and Rueda appealed.
The appeals court, in addition to the above facts, set out the evidence supporting the jury verdict including:
- Emails from Tait the he was “working” on Buford to make a will.
- Bills from Tait for helping Buford prepare his will.
- Tait had taken over virtually all of Buford’s legal affairs.
- Tait accompanied Buford to every meeting with others.
- Tait himself admitted that he could influence Buford to add provisions to his will.
- After making the first will, Buford told someone that he had not yet decided what to do with his property.
Every case is different but undue influence is based on the overall conduct that is taking place and who benefits from it.
If you believe a loved one has been the subject of undue influence, you must act quickly. Remember, the two year statute of limitations for contesting a will doesn’t change even if the will is the result of undue influence.