//Undue Influence
Undue Influence

Will Contests Because of Undue Influence – Houston Lawyers

Can you Contest a Will that was executed by somebody who was the victim of Undue Influence?  Absolutely, this is one of the most common types of probate litigation when somebody has been cheated out of their proper inheritance.

Unfortunately, people executing a new Will are frequently coerced into modifying existing Wills or creating a new document. A person exerts “undue influence” over a testator (the person who executes the Will) when he or she takes advantage of the testator’s frailty, illness, age, inexperience, or dependence.

The person who coerces the testator into modifying an already existing will or creating a new will is exerting “undue influence” over the testator. Undue influence involves the assertion that because the testator of the will was taken advantage of by a person, the disregarding of the new Will in justified.

In Texas, undue influence is presumed to be present when a confidential relationship exists between the culprit and testator in conjunction with “suspicious circumstances”.

Some “suspicious circumstances” might involve:

  • Haste or secrecy in signing a new will
  • More frequent communication between the testator and the culprit towards the end of the testator’s life
  • A sudden change in the testator’s attitude towards the culprit.

When a probate court finds that a testator had fallen victim to undue influence, the will can be invalidated and the people who had been cheated out of their inheritance can obtain their fair share of the estate.

Examples:

  • Old woman relies on a caregiver in her retirement. As she continues to age, her memory deteriorates. If she passes away and her Will leaves a substantial amount of her estate to the caregiver, it may create suspicion that undue influence was used in the execution of the Will.  The heirs such as children (or anybody else who was a beneficiary of the old will) can ask the Probate court to declare the new will to be invalid and the old will would control.
  • Somebody knows a secret about another person and threatens to disclose that secret upon their death unless the testator modifies her Will to benefit them.  If it can be shown that this type of coercion and undue influence was indeed used, a probate court can disregard the second will and the inheritance would pass under the old, valid Will.