Undue Influence, Duress, and Incapacity Within Trust Litigation
A Last Will and Testament (will), trust, or any other estate planning document can be contested with litigation if a family member can prove that their loved one was unduly influenced by another person, suffered from an incapacity of some kind, or was forced under duress to change his or her will. Contesting the validity of a will can be legally challenging, but if a will was executed for any of these reasons, it can be considered invalid by the court.
Undue Influence and Duress
If person A manipulates or persuades person B to change their estate planning documents in such a way that person A benefits from that change, there may be undue influence. Duress is some sort of threat or action that causes someone to do something against their will or better judgment. Every person is allowed the freedom in the United States to create a will and leave their assets to whomever they choose. However, if an individual’s ability is manipulated in such a way that they are unable to properly execute their wishes, they may be under undue influence.
Incapacity and undue influence oftentimes work hand in hand with regard to estate planning documents. If a person has any kind of diminished mental capacity, they are much more susceptible to any kind of improper influence or undue pressure. Undue influence of those persons that have any kind of incapacity typically happens out of the sight of friends and family members, and therefore, it is critical to piece together documentation and evidence to prove not only that the decedent was incapacitated in some way, but that they were also unduly influenced by a manipulative party.
Proving Undue Influence, Incapacity, and Duress
If you are a family member attempting to contest a will or trust document, you must prove that the estate planning documents were procured and changed under the influence of another party. When a family member is suddenly removed and excluded from a person’s life, typically under the influence or “guidance” of another person, they may be exerting either duress or undue influence on that person. Proving undue influence, incapacity and duress can be legally complex and challenging, and typically these cases revolve around the quality and thoroughness of the evidence provided to the court.
In many cases, proving that a will or trust was written under undue influence or duress is difficult and may include the following:
- The estate planning document leaves assets to a person who is wholly unexpected, and in most cases not a family member.
- The person who inherited most assets from the estate had some sort of “confidential relationship” and had the opportunity to exert undue influence or duress on the decedent.
- The decedent either had some form of incapacity or was susceptible in some way to duress or undue influence.
Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
If you believe that your loved one was either under duress or was the target of undue influence due to their incapacity which resulted in changes to their will, trust or other estate planning documents, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at the Law Office of Kris Mukherji at (858) 442-5747 to help you determine your next steps and help you build a strong case.