practice areas
Undue Influence

Undue Influence

Undue influence is an argument used to contest the validity of a will or trust. If the person who made the will or trust has been taken advantage of in some way by a third party, potential beneficiaries of the will or trust may bring a lawsuit challenging whether it is legally enforceable. If you are in need of legal advice about potential undue influence in the probate process, you will want to contact our experienced probate attorneys.

At Pedder, Hesseltine, Walker & Toth, LLP, we represent clients in a wide array of legal matters, including estate planning and probate. Our Lafayette undue influence lawyers will work tirelessly to defend your rights against the dishonesty or errors by family members or others who seek to take advantage of the system. Contact our law firm online or call 925-283-6816 for a free 30-minute consultation.

Contra Costa County Estate Litigation Lawyers

The California probate code does not contain a statute defining undue influence in will and trust contests, but there is case law that addresses the broad elements. For the purposes of a will or trust contest, the Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging puts forth a four-factor test to determine undue influence:

  • The person who made the will suffered from mental and/or physical conditions that
    could permit his or her freedom of will to be overcome
  • A relationship existed with someone whereby that person had an opportunity to influence
    the person who made the will
  • The person who benefited from the will was active in procuring the will
  • The will cuts out those people or organizations that would naturally benefit from the will, or the will is contrary to the prior expressed intentions of the will maker

Since there is no specific definition, it is up to the attorney in these cases to show that the undue influence occurred. Knowledge of existing case law and powerful persuasive argument are therefore required in these cases. Our probate lawyers offer the experience you need in proving undue influence. We will conduct a thorough investigation detailing the history of the relationship, the ways in which the accused seeks to benefit and show that the will maker was vulnerable to the suggestions or demands of the accused.

Mentally Compromised Individuals

There is a threshold where a person becomes mentally incompetent in the eyes of the law. At that stage, anything that he or she signs or agrees to may be brought into question given his or her vulnerable state. However, even prior to incompetence, a person may be mentally compromised, making him or her more susceptible to undue influence.

In these circumstances, you will need the will or trust maker’s medical records and an expert to interpret them at trial in order to show that they were mentally compromised when agreeing to the contents of the document. The attorneys at Pedder, Hesseltine, Walker & Toth, LLP, will conduct the entire investigation, as well as engage a forensic geriatric psychiatrist to testify at the trial. We do not cut corners and never lose sight of the objective in will or trust contests.

Contact Our Bay Area Estate Planning And Litigation Law Firm Today

If you believe that a family member or loved one is the victim of undue influence, do not delay in seeking out the help of our experienced estate planning and litigation lawyers. Contact us online or call 925-283-6816 for a free 30-minute consultation.