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When Can a Will Be Contested Based on Undue Influence in Texas?

Posted on in Estate planning

san antonio estate planning lawyerAfter a person’s death, their family members or others who were close to them may struggle to deal with the loss of a loved one. While dealing with the legal and financial issues related to a person’s estate can be difficult enough, these matters can become even more complex when family members become involved in disputes about their loved one’s will. There are many reasons to contest a will, and many cases involve claims of “undue influence” in which someone convinced the person to create or change a will in a way that was contrary to their actual wishes. Those who are involved in these cases will need to understand the requirements that must be met to prove that undue influence occurred.

Proving Undue Influence

There are many reasons that family members may believe that someone improperly influenced their loved one. For example, a person may have had a close relationship with their grandchild, and they may have stated that they were going to leave certain assets to that grandchild in their will. However, after the person’s death, the grandchild may have found that they had been excluded from the person’s will, and the majority of the person’s assets were instead left to another family member who had helped manage the person’s finances. Because of this, the grandchild may believe that the family member who received the largest inheritance exerted undue influence and caused the person to change their will.

Not every example of influence by a beneficiary or another party is considered to be undue influence. Texas courts have stated that undue influence must involve a situation in which a party subverted or overpowered the mind of the person who made a will (the testator), and any changes to the testator’s will would not have been made if the party had not exerted influence. Simple requests to change a will may be valid forms of influence, but threats or coercion that overpowered the testator’s ability to make sound decisions may be considered undue influence.

When reviewing a case to determine whether undue influence occurred, courts may consider factors such as:

  • The relationship between the testator and the person accused of undue influence. A person who had a fiduciary relationship with the testator, such as by managing their finances, may have been in a position to exert undue influence.

  • The opportunities that a person may have had to exert undue influence or use deception against the testator.

  • The circumstances surrounding the drafting and execution of the will, such as whether the person accused of undue influence was involved in deciding what terms should be included in the will.

  • Whether a person accused of undue influence may have had a fraudulent motive, such as ensuring that they would receive a large inheritance.

  • Whether the testator had habitually been under someone else’s control.

  • The state of mind the testator was in when they signed their will.

  • Whether the testator had exhibited any physical or mental weaknesses due to age, illness, or other factors.

  • Whether the testator was physically or mentally incapable of resisting influence by someone else.

  • The testator’s words and actions, such as their stated intent to leave certain assets to one or more heirs.

  • Whether the terms of a will may be considered to be “unnatural.”

Contact Our San Antonio Contested Estates Lawyer

If you believe that someone exerted undue influence on your loved one, The Law Office of Ryan C. Moe, PLLC can help you determine your options for contesting their will. Contact our Bexar County probate litigation attorney today at 210-861-6000 to schedule a consultation and discuss these issues.

Sources:

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/ES/htm/ES.55.htm

https://casetext.com/case/in-re-estate-of-graham-1

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