Undue Influence in Texas
What is it?
Existence of Influence
The existence and exercise of an influence upon the testator. It can be just a strong mind over a weak one.
Subvert or Overpower
That Influence operates to subvert or overpower the testator’s mind at the time the will was executed,
No Will but for
Influence such that the execution of the will would not have occurred but for the undue influence
In Texas, the rules guiding the determination of the existence of undue influence apply substantially alike to wills, deeds, and other instruments.
A claim of “undue influence” under Texas law is broad enough to encompass fraud, deceit, and/or duress and may be alleged in the alternative with a claim based on lack of testamentary capacity.
Undue influence is, however, separate and distinct from a claim based on “lack of testamentary capacity” because mental capacity is “presumed” in connection with an assertion of undue influence.
To set aside a will, deed, or other instruments on the basis of a “classic” claim of undue influence, the contestant must prove:
- the existence and exercise of an influence upon the testator,
- that operated to subvert or overpower the testator’s mind at the time the will was executed,
- such that the execution would not have occurred but for the undue influence.
An early Texas Supreme Court opinion defined the ultimate question as whether
“the testator’s free agency was destroyed, and that 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 his 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.”
“may be exercised through threats or fraud or the silent power of a strong mind over a weak one.”
Every case is different
The existence of undue influence is a question of fact, and from its very nature, like all fraudulent and vicious schemes, hides its features behind masks and operates in dark and secret places and in covert ways, and proof of it must usually be by circumstantial rather than by direct testimony.
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Undue influence in Texas, the rules guiding the determination of the existence of undue influence apply substantially alike to wills, deeds, and other instruments.
Inheritance disputes involve someone who has taken advantage of the elderly. These cases are complicated and most often, but not always, involve outsiders. We represent you knowing that these inheritance disputes are private and painful family matters. We know this is a stressful time for you. We strive to obtain the quickest and best results possible so that you can get this troubling episode behind you.
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