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Bundren Law Firm P.C. Bundren Law Firm P.C.

Probate Disputes: What Is Undue Influence?

Serving Families Throughout Tulsa

In probate disputes, the concept of undue influence can be an important factor in determining whether or not a will is valid. Undue influence occurs when someone takes advantage of the testator, coercing them into making decisions that are contrary to their wishes and best interests.

Examples of undue influence can include a person who had power over the deceased during the latter’s lifetime, such as an attorney or caregiver, taking advantage of their vulnerability to coerce them into signing a will or other legal document. It can also involve someone threatening violence against the deceased to get them to sign something, or even offering them a financial incentive in exchange for changing their will. In some cases, undue influence may be as simple as someone convincing the deceased that they need to change their will for their own benefit.

In addition to these examples, remember that undue influence doesn’t necessarily have to be physical or direct. It can take many forms and involve subtle manipulation techniques to gain control over the decision-making process of the deceased.

How Is Undue Influence Proven During Probate?

Ultimately, proving undue influence during probate is tricky and requires careful consideration of all the facts involved. It’s important to remember that courts take all evidence seriously when deciding whether or not undue influence occurred.

When it comes to proving undue influence during probate, there are a few key things one should keep in mind:

  • Courts take into consideration the volume of evidence when determining if someone has been unduly influenced. This means that more pieces of evidence will make your case stronger.
  • The court also takes into account the power dynamics between the parties involved. If one party has a substantial amount of influence over another and uses this advantage to benefit from a situation (such as inheritance), then that’s likely to be considered undue influence.
  • The burden of proof lies with the person making the claim of undue influence. It is up to them to provide sufficient evidence to prove their case.
  • Any gifts or transfers made within a year of death are often highly scrutinized. This could be seen as evidence of undue influence, particularly if it is found that the person making the transfer was not of sound mental health or was in a vulnerable position at the time.
  • Finally, any suspicious behavior from either party can be taken into account when determining if someone has been unduly influenced. This includes attempts to conceal documents or other assets, tampering with records, and intimidation tactics.

With sufficient evidence and an experienced probate lawyer by your side, you can successfully prove undue influence of a deceased loved one or disprove unfounded accusations of such influence.

Who Can Bring a Claim of Undue Influence?

In Oklahoma, any interested party who believes that a person has exerted undue influence to unduly benefit from a decedent's estate can bring a claim. Interested parties may include beneficiaries of the estate, other family members, heirs, or creditors who are owed money by the deceased.

How Are Claims of Undue Influence Resolved?

If a court determines that undue influence occurred, a judge may decide to invalidate a will on the grounds that it was not created with the expressed intent of the deceased. This determination is usually based on evidence from witnesses, medical records, financial documents, and other proof showing signs of coercion.

If the court isn’t convinced that undue influence occurred was a factor in the will’s formation, then the will may stand, and probate can proceed.

Who Can Help Me with a Probate Dispute?

At Bundren Law Firm P.C., we understand the emotional and legal complexities of probate disputes and can help you resolve them. We can help with will contests, guardianship disputes, trust litigation, problems with executors or administrators of an estate, family disagreements about how property is distributed, and more.

For more detailed information about how we can help with your unique situation, schedule a consultation with us today.