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What is Undue Influence?

Undue influence means the testator’s will was overcome by the will of the wrongdoer. An allegation of undue influence can be used to contest the validity of a will. If a court finds the will or a particular gift in the will was a product of undue influence, the court may invalidate the gift or the will to the extent it was procured by undue influence.

When determining whether there was undue influence the court looks to determine if the testator acted voluntarily. There are several factors the court will examine to determine if the testator acted voluntarily. Those factors include: (1) the testator was susceptible to undue influence, (2) the person influencing the testator had the opportunity to exercise undue influence, (3) a wrongful act, and (4) an unnatural disposition resulted from the influence.

First, the testator is susceptible to undue influence if the testator’s psychological, financial, or physical condition made it easier for his or her free will to be subjugated.

Second, the testator is susceptible to undue influence if the relationship between the testator and wrongdoer affords the wrongdoer the opportunity to control the testator’s actions.

Third, a wrongful act means the wrongdoer uses a threat, force, or duress to procure the gift.

Finally, unnatural dispositions results from undue influence if the wrongdoer is given a gift that would not ordinarily be given to the wrongdoer. For example, the wrongdoer is unrelated and receives testator’s entire estate and blood relatives are excluded.

Source: Undue Influence in Contract and Probate Law, Abraham Nievod, Ph.D., J.D.