Contest based on Undue Influence: California Will or Trust
Undue influence is when someone uses pressure to force another person to sign a document against what they would normally choose if there was no pressure for them to sign. It is not enough to prove someone influenced the testator or had an opportunity to influence the testator. You must prove influence existed in getting the testator to sign a will or trust. Proving influence is when you can show someone exerted pressure on the testator to sign. This pressure can involve arguing or using some other kind of coercion keeping them from making their own choice.
Contest based on Undue Influence and proving it.
You can prove influence when a person doesn’t have some sort of cognitive or mental dysfunction. It is easier to prove when there is a documented cognitive impairment. A person can be mentally competent but still subject to undue influence. For example, someone compromised by dementia may still have mental capacity. She is vulnerable to manipulation and particularly vulnerable to someone she trusts, like her daughter or son.
Of course, some people have declined so far that they are both subject to influence and mentally incompetent. These are not mutually exclusive conditions. A person can be mentally incompetent, unduly influenced, or both. The person subject to undue influence is often forgetful and dependent on other people but he or she is still competent. Even though competent, a person in this compromised condition can easily fall prey to those seeking to take advantage of them (i.e. subject to undue influence) because of their condition. Prove undue influence and the will contest or trust contest will be successful.
When trying to prove lack of mental capacity or undue influence, the testator’s medical records are going to be important. If the records are not readily available then they will likely be obtained by your probate litigation attorney during the litigation by subpoena. At trial, you will most certainly need an expert, a forensic geriatric psychiatrist, to testify the medical records show your loved one was either mentally incompetent or compromised and therefore subject to undue influence.
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