What Is “Undue Influence” in California and How Can It Be Used?

This article explains how to can invoke “undue influence” to contest a will or trust in California?

Family relations are fraught with emotions and decisions. Those concerning wealth and its distribution, can trigger passionate reactions. Some members of the family circle have a strong influence on others.

While this can be a positive thing, sometimes someone’s influence becomes “undue.”

What Is Undue Influence?undue influence

In the context of contesting a will or trust in California, undue influence typically occurs when a person creating a will or trust is weakened (in a weak mental state). The influencer exercises coercion on the testator, thereby replacing the original intent of the testator with his or her own intent.

The weakened mental state of the testator is similar to the mental state required as a condition to declare lack of capacity. However, the other conditions necessary to declare lack of capacity are not a requirement to prove undue influence. A will is presumed valid unless the testator lacked capacity at the moment of signing the Will. A person with dementia may have good and bad days and could conceivably have capacity on the day of signing a will. Proving a situation of lack of capacity may therefore be difficult.

To prove undue influence, however, you must establish weakness of mind. You must prove that the person unduly profiting took advantage of the testator’s weakness of mind.

How Can You Prove Undue Influence?

Various elements may converge towards proof of undue influence, like:

  • A mental weakness, infirmity, or impairment of the testator resulting in having his or her free will altered or confused
  • A confidential relationship between the testator and the person exercising undue influence
  • The execution of the Will unduly benefiting the alleged wrongdoer
  • Testamentary provisions that are conflicting with the testator’s earlier stated intentions

Talk to California will contest and trust litigation attorney Scott Grossman about what your situation is, what your goals are, and any questions you might have. Call us at (951) 683-3704 or (866) 840-0000 for your FREE 30 minute telephone consultation. Our offices are located in Riverside and Temecula. If you would like more information on probate and trust administration, you can also request our free book Winning the Inheritance Battle for more information.

Scott Grossman

Scott Grossman


The Grossman Law Firm, APC · 525 B Street, Suite 1500, San Diego, CA 92101 · (951) 523-8307

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