Undue Influence In Estate Planning

Among the many reasons that people initiate a will or trust contest following a loved one's death, undue influence is one of the most common. When someone does not receive the estate share that he or she expected — or, in some cases, is left out entirely — it is natural to wonder whether there were other factors at play other than the loved one's personal preferences.

In situations where undue influence is suspected, it is essential that all parties involved retain experienced counsel. Our estate litigation attorneys have represented clients throughout Florida, both named will beneficiaries and those who are either underrepresented or unrepresented in a will. We thoroughly investigate the circumstances that resulted in the drafting and execution of a will, looking for confidential relationships that may have affected a testator's thinking or any other facts that point to undue influence.

Other common claims in a will contest include duress, fraud and lack of capacity.

Will or trust contests are not an all-or-nothing proposition. While a court may invalidate the entirety of a will or trust that is deemed to have been drafted with undue influence, it can also selectively void specific gifts that are found to be the result of undue influence. In these cases, the remainder of the will or trust can remain intact and valid.

Whether you suspect that a will has been drafted because of undue influence, or are a named beneficiary to a will seeking to have it upheld on its terms, our lawyers will represent you aggressively in litigation. Schedule a free consultation by email or call our Fort Myers offices at 239-344-9430 (877-243-1624 toll free).

Fraud In Estate Planning

Like undue influence, fraud in the context of estate litigation refers to the acts of an individual to influence a testator's decision-making as he or she prepares or modifies a will.

The critical difference between the two lies in who benefits from the influence. Whereas in a claim of undue influence, a party alleges that someone used the influence for his or her own material benefit, with fraud the claim is that the individual induced the testator to take actions to benefit a third party. This could be done as part of collusion between parties, or in order to prevent other potential beneficiaries from taking assets from an estate.

If you have concerns that a loved one's will may be partially or entirely the product of fraud — or if you have been accused of engaging in fraudulent behavior to induce a loved one to write his or her will in a particular way — you need to retain experienced legal help as soon as possible. Our firm has a team of experienced estate litigation attorneys who understand the nuances of the law, the burdens that must be met and overcome, and the evidence to look for to either establish or disprove fraudulent intent.

Courts look at every provision of a will in a will contest. While it can void a will in its entirety if it finds that it was wholly the product of fraud, it can also strike specific provisions while leaving the remainder of the will intact.