Challenging a Florida Will, Trust or Bank Account Beneficiary Due to Undue Influence
The premise of estate planning is to ensure that someone’s wishes are carried out after they pass away. However, that is not necessarily what happens every time. In some cases, the deceased was subject to someone’s improper pressure to alter their will. Known as undue influence, this is one of the most common ways someone can challenge a Florida will, trust or bank account beneficiary designations. If you believe your family member’s will, trust or bank account beneficiary is not valid, you need to speak with a knowledgeable West Palm Beach probate attorney who can help.
If your family member has passed away, you can challenge a testamentary document for undue influence. However, it is not necessarily an easy task. That’s why you need an experienced lawyer on your side. To learn more about challenging a will, trust or bank account beneficiary due to undue influence, contact the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. today.
What Is Undue Influence?
Undue influence happens when someone coerces or compels the testator to execute differently. This improper pressure usually comes from someone the testator knows well, such as a friend, relative, or trusted advisor. The person exerting the force could also be a healthcare worker.
With most undue influence allegations, the perpetrator has changed a person’s long-standing estate plan. Previously, the estate might have been going to the testator’s relatives. After the changes, the perpetrator will likely benefit the most when the testator passes away.
Some unscrupulous people look for easy targets and befriend these people later in life. These undue influencers typically go after those who are suffering some mental decline. They might be a health care worker or caretaker that comes in the home regularly or lives in the home part-time. Some people will go so far as to threaten to withhold health care unless the testator makes the changes they want.
In other cases, undue influence comes from much closer relationships. Perhaps one child will try to convince a parent to write another family member out of the will, such as other children.
Grounds for Undue Influence
If you plan to challenge a will, trust or bank account designation for undue influence, you need to understand what is necessary. You are expected to establish the presumption of undue influence, which means you need to show that the testator was in a weakened state and that the undue influencer:
- Is someone who has a substantial benefit under the testator’s will;
- Is someone who had a confidential relationship with the testator; and
- Is someone who was active in the procurement of the testator’s changed will.
As the person challenging, you have the burden to prove the undue influence by a preponderance of the evidence. The first two elements are relatively easy to prove, but the final one is more challenging. You can use some framework for establishing your position. These factors are known as the “Carpenter factors,” from the Florida Supreme Court Case they are referenced in. A couple of these factors are:
- Was the undue influencer present when the testator signed the will?
- Was the undue influencer present when the testator discussed creating a will?
- Did the undue influencer recommend the attorney who drafted the will?
- Did the undue influencer become the will’s custodian after it was executed?
- Did the undue influencer provide any instruction to the attorney who drafted the will?
Contact a West Palm Beach Undue Influence Attorney
If you suspect undue influence and want to challenge a will, or a trust or a bank account beneficiary designation, it’s crucial to speak with an experienced West Palm Beach undue influence attorney. To learn more about how we can help, contact the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A., today to schedule an initial consultation.