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Dependence on Abuser

Under Florida law a last will and testament can be invalidated if it was executed under fraudulent circumstances. For example, if someone manipulated the testator into writing particular terms in a will, or if someone made threats against the testator in order to force the testator to include particular terms in a will, the will would be fraudulent. Another reason that a will may found to be fraudulent is where it was made under duress because the testator was being abused or threatened by someone upon whom he (or she) was dependent. Sadly, this is not unusual. Typically it occurs when the testator is elderly and in failing health. As a result the testator has come to depend on someone to help with activities of daily living. The Florida probate court will not probate a fraudulent will. If you believe that the will of a loved one is should be invalidated because it was executed under illegal circumstances involving the dependence on abuser, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale will contest lawyer who will help ensure that the abuser does not profit from his or her illegal actions.

Examples of Dependence on Abuser

Abuse based on dependence on abuser can take a variety of forms. In some cases the abuse is physical, while in many other cases it is not. Examples of someone abuse other than physical abuse include:

  • A caregiver refusing to give a weak, vulnerable person food or water. This may lead to the vulnerable agreeing to include terms in his will that are favorable to the caregiver in order to get food or water.
  • A home health care worker withholds medication or medical treatment until the vulnerable person agrees to change his will.
  • A caregiver, friend, or family member over time isolates the vulnerable person, refusing allow other friends and family members to see the vulnerable person, or convincing the vulnerable person that no one else cares about him

There is a distinction between asking a vulnerable to leave a testamentary gift or even taking putting mild pressure on someone to leave a testamentary gift, and illegal manipulation or duress. Putting illegal pressure on someone involves creating a situation in which the vulnerable person effectively has no other choice but to give in to the pressure of the manipulator. Proof of this type of manipulation is often difficult. If you have concerns about the circumstances related to the execution of a loved one’s will, contact an experienced will contest attorney in Fort Lauderdale.

Legal Standing to Contest a Will

Simply because a person is angry, sad, or concerned about the validity of the will does not mean that that person has the legal right to file an objection to the will. While there may be a variety of people who believe that the testator was the victim of an abusive situation, only someone who has legal standing would have the right to object to a will being probated.

Those with legal standing are those who have an interest in the matter. This would be limited to beneficiaries named in will, beneficiaries who were named in a prior will, and the decedent’s next of kin. Beneficiaries have standing to contest a will because they would stand to lose financially if the will is invalidated. Beneficiaries of a prior will have standing because they would benefit financially if the current will is invalidated and the court probates the prior will. Next of kin are the decedent’s statutory heirs who would inherit in the absence of a valid. Thus, they would benefit financially of the will is invalidated and there is not a prior valid will. If you are unsure as to whether you have the legal right to challenge a will, contact a Fort Lauderdale will contest lawyer to discuss your concerns.

Consequences of a Successful Will Challenge

A successful will challenge will change how the decedent’s estate is distributed. Instead of basing assets distribution on invalidated will, the court will direct that a prior will is used, or that Florida’s intestate succession rules are used. It is also possible that instead of invalidating the entire will, the court may void the terms of the will that resulted from manipulation. For example, if the manipulator forced the testator to add a term leaving him or her $100,000 in cash, the court would void that gift, but allow the rest of the will to be probated.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you believe that duress and dependence on abuser was the reason that your loved one changed his or her last will and testament, contact an experienced will contest attorney serving Fort Lauderdale at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. We will review the facts of your case and work hard to make sure that the abuser does not profit from his illegal actions. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

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