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What is undue influence?

On Behalf of | Dec 10, 2018 | Firm News |

One factor that can potentially invalidate an otherwise technically perfect Georgia will is learning the will’s provisions came to be as a result of undue influence. Allegations of undue influence are one major reason for probate litigation.

Prolonged litigation can deplete the estate and generate long-lasting conflicts. If you have reason to suspect the issue of undue influence may arise, your best option is to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable lawyer in your area.

General definitions

Legally, undue influence can happen when a beneficiary acts to take over the testator’s own free will and substitute his or her own will. It is generally not undue influence if a testator simply favors one relative or friend over others, even if this favor results in will provisions some may think unfair. Testators may also choose to leave a large portion or even all their estates to an unrelated person or an organization. The key point is that they do so freely, not because the beneficiary used unfair tactics to apply undue pressure.

Examples of undue influence

When does a relationship cross the line into undue influence? Some cases involve psychological pressure, threats and fraud. Someone in a caregiver position may threaten to deprive the testator of necessities or cut off access to friends and family. Sometimes, a person may engage in subtle emotional manipulation to convince the testator to make provisions in his or her favor.

Establishing undue influence can be difficult and often depends on the specifics of the situation. A frail person in poor health can be more susceptible to psychological manipulation and pressure than a strong, healthy person. When the testator depends on the beneficiary for care or other needs, there is also more room for exerting influence. Fiduciaries such as attorneys can also come under increased scrutiny, as their position of trust can also make it easier to deceive or manipulate.