When a loved one dies in California and makes you a beneficiary in his or her will, you may feel frustrated or disappointed if you do not inherit what you expect. However, if you did not inherit what you anticipated because someone subjected your loved one to something called undue influence, you may be able to contest the will in court.
Per the American Bar Association, undue influence occurs when one party uses excessive persuasion to influence the actions of another party to the extent that the individual no longer acts within his or her own free will. There are certain elements you need to prove if you decide to contest a will on the grounds of undue influence.
Key arguments in an undue influence case
To prove undue influence in court, you need to show that the party that influenced the other had a certain degree of power or authority over the other. Then, you need to show that the influential party preyed on the other party’s mental limitations, or took an “oppressive and unfair advantage” of the other party’s condition or situation.
Key considerations in an undue influence case
When deciding if undue influence occurred, expect the court to consider how vulnerable the victim was to influence. The court may take into account mental capacity and dependency, among other areas. The influencer’s tactics and actions in influencing the victim also fall under the microscope, as does the overall outcome of the influencer’s actions.
Your ability to succeed in an undue influence case depends on your ability to demonstrate that an unequal relationship and unreasonable coercion resulted in your loved one making estate planning moves he or she otherwise would not.