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Will Executed Under Undue Influence

In order for a last will and testament to be valid in Fort Lauderdale it must have been executed according to the requirements of Florida law. If not it would be invalid and should not be probated. If a beneficiary, heir, or other interested party believes that a will is not valid, he (or she) can file an objection to probate. The court is required to review the objection and based on the evidence presented, decide whether or not to admit the will to probate. A claim of undue influence is one common basis for objecting to probate. Undue influence involves a manipulator putting pressure on a vulnerable testator such that the testator makes decisions about the contents of his will that he would not have made but for that pressure or influence of the manipulator. If you believe that a will of someone you care about was based on illegal undue influence, it is important that you immediately contact a Fort Lauderdale will contest lawyer who will listen to your concerns and ensure that your legal rights are protected.

Will Executed Under Undue Influence

Undue influence involves more than someone asking or even demanding that a testator make a favorable change in his (or her) will. Relatives and friends often do this. A request or demand will amount to a will executed under undue influence if the gift in the will was unusual, unnatural, or inconsistent with the testator’s prior intentions. For example, Randall created a will 20 years ago dividing his large estate equally among his grandchildren. He reviewed it regularly, making only minor changes. With each revision or new will, Randall always was consistent with leaving the bulk of his will to his grandchildren in equal shares. When Randall’s health declined, he hired Jana to be his caregiver. At first she was with him about 8 hours a day. Later she moved in with him. The rest of his family started to see him less and less. When he passed away, a will was presented to the probate court that left 50% of Randall’s estate to Jana. Randall’s grandchildren and other family members were shocked. They felt strongly that they were facing a will executed under undue influence problem. With the help of an experienced Fort Lauderdale will contest lawyer, Randall’s grandchildren filed an objection to the probating of the will, based on a belief that the will was based on the illegal actions of Jana, such as undue influence.

Circumstances that tend to point to undue influence include:

  • The beneficiary believed to have exerted undue influence was involved in or present at key stages in the development of the will. This may include selecting the attorney who ended up drafting the will, being present when the will was drafted, selecting the witnesses, and being present when the will was signed.
  • Terms of the will are very different from what the testator has expressed his (or her) intentions to be. For example, the new will is substantially different from the prior will without any changed circumstances.
  • Family and friends had had limited contact with the testator prior to his passing or prior to the execution of the new will.
  • Family and friends having little if any knowledge of the person suspected of exerting undue influence on the testator
Remedies for Will Executed Under Undue Influence

If it is suspected that a will was executed under undue influence, then the proper way to challenge the will is to file an objection to probate. Generally, only beneficiaries, beneficiaries of a prior will, and legal heirs have the necessary legal standing to object to probate because they have a financial interest in the outcome of an objection.

If the person challenging the validity of the will is successful in proving that undue influence was involved in the creating of the will, the court will conclude that part if not all of the will is invalid. The result would be either that the court will probate a prior will, or the court will order that the estate be administered according to Florida’s rules of intestate succession.

Florida’s intestate succession statute defines who should get a decedent’s assets in the absence of a will. Generally, a decedent’s next of kin would be his surviving spouse and descendants. If the decedent does not have a surviving spouse or descendants, the statute lists which other relatives would be entitled to inherit such as siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.

The court may decide that it is not necessary to invalidate the entire will in order to remedy the illegal act by the person who exerted undue influence. Instead, the court may decide to void the portions of the will that benefited that person. As an experienced will contest attorney in Fort Lauderdale will explain, in order for a term in a will to be the result of illegal undue influence, the term does not have to directly benefit the influencer. It is enough that the benefit is indirect or that the term was included in the will only because of the undue influence. For example, a manipulator might illegally influence a testator to leave money in his will to the manipulator’s child. Or, the manipulator might illegally influence a testator to leave money in his will to an organization for which the manipulator has an interest.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you are facing a will executed under undue influence problem because you believe that the will of a loved one was created based on undue influence, it is important that you are represented by a skilled will contest attorney serving clients in Fort Lauderdale who has the knowledge and resources to file the proper petition with the probate court to object to probate. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience representing clients in matters relating to estate disputes. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.