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By: Scott Grossman on April 23rd, 2018

Undue Influence: What it is in California and how it can be used

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.” Known as Undue Influence.

What Is 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. 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, like:

  • A mental weakness, infirmity, or impairment of the testator resulting in having his or her free will be 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

If you are ready to start your case, then please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form. A comprehensive overview of California Probate is available here. Should you have additional questions about trust litigation, you will find plenty of useful information in our Learning Center.