When someone dies and leaves behind a legacy in Texas, it may lead to conflict if one of the beneficiaries feels as if he or she did not receive everything the deceased intended. Inheritance conflicts arise for many reasons. However, many such battles revolve around accusations of “undue influence.”
What is undue influence, and how does it often play a key role in inheritance conflicts?
Defining “undue influence”
According to Cornell Law School, an accusation of undue influence has the potential to undermine a binding contract between two parties. It is also one of the most common reasons individuals choose to contest the will of another in probate court. In brief, undue influence refers to one party influencing another for some type of personal gain.
Proving undue influence
To prove undue influence, you must be able to demonstrate that specific circumstances exist. First, you need to prove that the deceased party had a weakness that was somehow at risk of exploitation by the other party. Then, you need to show that the party influencing the other shared a special relationship with the victim that made the victim more susceptible to the other party’s influence.
Sometimes called a “confidential relationship,” such a relationship may exist if the testator relies on the other party for care, financial resources or what have you. Often, part of proving an undue influence case involves showing how the testator’s illness or frail condition made him or her susceptible to the influence of another.
Because the testator is unable to appear in court in cases involving allegations of undue influence, other witnesses, such as other family members or caregivers, may have to do so, instead.