elements of a living will

Undue Influence

Estate Planning Lawyers in Tennessee

There are times when we may need to rely on others to help us with important decisions. We put our faith in them and hope they can help us in our time of need. Unfortunately, someone can easily take advantage of the situation and influence your loved one into changing their estate plans. This is called undue influence. As a result, the probate court may carry out your loved one’s estate plans incorrectly.

The estate planning lawyers at MHPS guide people in Nashville, Springfield, and throughout Tennessee who believe their loved ones’ estate change was the result of undue influence. Our firm strongly believes in carrying out a person’s true wishes the way they intend. We will do what we can to contest the estate if there’s reason to believe there was undue influence.

power of attorney paperwork

What is Undue Influence?

Undue influence occurs when a vulnerable person is coerced or under duress of a person to leave them their assets. The manipulator is usually a person in a position of control over the vulnerable person’s care or finances. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a family member – it can be an attorney or a caretaker.

For example, in her later years, your grandmother became easily confused at times. Then,  your cousin volunteered to be her caregiver. This seemed odd since their relationship had always been rocky. After your grandmother died, you learned that the majority of her estate was going to that cousin. Seems suspicious, right? This scenario may be a case of undue influence

undue influence attorney in Tennessee

Signs of Undue Influence

Some common signs of undue influence include:

  • Unexpected alterations to the person’s will, trust, Power of Attorney, or other legal matters.
  • A change occurs in the relationship between the person and their family or friends.
  • There was a discrepancy between the person’s previous wishes or intentions and what was in the final estate plan.
  • There are secret financial transactions or legal changes.

If the court has approved the estate and you feel that undue influence played a part in its creation, you will need to contest the validity of the will in probate court. In Tennessee, you have two years after the estate’s approval to contest the will.

Confidential Relationships

When it comes to proving undue influence in Tennessee wills and trusts, many will first look at the potential of a confidential relationship between the deceased and the individual in question.

Under Tennessee law, a confidential relationship is “one that gives one person the ability to exercise dominion and control over another.” Confidential relationships are not just of mutual trust. They can be relationships “where confidence is placed by one in the other and the recipient of that confidence is the dominant personality, with ability, because of that confidence, to influence and exercise dominion and control over the weaker or dominated party.”

These types of relationships should not be confused with a fiduciary relationship that develops from guardianship, attorney/client relationships, or conservators where the relationship is confidential per se because of the legal status of each party.

For a relationship to be considered confidential, the court requires proof of dominion and control.

undue influence probate documentation

Understanding Undue Influence in Inheritance Cases

Understanding Undue Influence in Inheritance Cases

In our free eBook, you’ll learn what to do if a relative or caretaker manipulates one of your loved ones to control their inheritance.

  • Understand and recognize Undue Influence
  • Know your legal remedies
  • Prevent Undue Influence from occurring

Complete the form below to get the free eBook now

Download our free probate litigation eBook to dive deeper into understanding Undue Influence.

How Do You Prove Undue Influence?

Now comes the hard part – establishing undue influence in your claim. It can be difficult to prove since the person who created the will is no longer able to explain their choices. Witnesses may need to describe the mental capacity of the person at the time of the estate’s creation. For example, a physician can discuss the deceased’s mental state, or a family member explaining the relationship between the deceased and the influencer.

Information on how to prove undue influence

To successfully prove that there was undue influence in the estate planning, you will need to show the following:

  • Assets and property were distributed to unexpected people.
  • There was a confidential relationship between the testator and the influencer, such as a caregiver.
  • The testator was vulnerable in some way, such as suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  • The influencer benefited from the estate.

To establish how coercion played a part in estate planning, you need to show that the person manipulated the deceased for that person’s benefit.

How Our Nashville Probate Litigation Attorneys Can Help

If you feel an estate is invalid, it’s essential that you speak with an experienced estate litigation attorney to learn what your legal options can be. At MHPS, our Middle Tennessee estate lawyers have helped hundreds of clients contest wills in probate court. We understand what you will need for a successful claim and will work hard to make sure probate court respects and follows your loved one’s wishes.

If you believe that your loved one may have been a victim of undue influence during estate planning, now is the time to act. Contact MHPS today to schedule a consultation.