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How Do Courts Handle Estate Litigation Cases That Center Around Undue Influence?

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Beneficiaries who claim that the testator, the decedent who left behind the estate, was the victim of undue influence have the “burden of proof” in litigation cases. The burden of proof means that the party seeking to prove a fact in court must demonstrate the facts are legally established.

In other words, the plaintiff that brings the case to court must successfully prove through evidence that another influenced the testator to make decisions or changes they would not have made independently.

Proving undue influence can be challenging and nearly impossible without the help of an experienced estate litigation lawyer who understands what it takes to obtain favorable results. Contact our law offices and schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your legal needs.

What is Considered Undue Influence in Estate Litigation?

Utah law allows for the validity of a will or trust to be challenged if it is believed that the decedent was under undue influence at the time either was executed. In most cases, undue influence involves another person manipulating the trustor into writing a new will or amending an existing will to include or exclude beneficiaries and other provisions that generally would not have been what the decedent wanted.

In many instances, undue influence occurs between the testator and a beneficiary who has a confidential relationship, such as lawyers and their clients. However, undue influence can occur in many ways. For example, a new wife coercing a husband to write his children from a previous marriage out of a will or family members trying to have more assets left to them than the testator initially intended.

For more information about what Utah considers undue influence, contact our law firm, and ask to schedule a meeting with a knowledgeable estate litigation attorney who can answer your legal questions.

What Evidence Does the Court Consider When Determining if Undue Influence Occurred?

For the plaintiff to prove undue influence occurred, they must present supporting evidence to the court. Although undue influence can occur as the result of any number of actions, there are several that the court will focus on.

Some of the evidence the court may consider includes:

  • Was the act in question kept secret from others in the decedent’s life?
  • Was the decedent capable of making legal decisions?
  • Was the action in question following in line with other actions the decedent made before they became ill or contrary to recent decisions?
  • Did the individual accused of undue influence have control or authority over the decedent?
  • Did the accused purposely prevent the decedent from having contact with family and friends?
  • Did the accused participate in helping the decedent carry out the new act, such as driving them to an appointment to change the will or physically helping them write their signature on legal documents?

The court will examine all of the evidence presented to determine if it believes that undue influence was a contributing factor that led up to the will being changed.

One of the most essential steps you can take is to hire a highly trained estate litigation lawyer who can help you gather and review the evidence to help build and strengthen your case.

Is Undue Influence Easy to Prove?

Even though undue influence may be suspected by other beneficiaries or personal representatives of the estate, proving undue influence can be extremely difficult.

To win a case where undue influence has been alleged, the person bringing the case must prove that the testator was persuaded by the accused to take action but that they were also coerced. An individual could have been coerced if they were tricked into making a change to their will or if they did not have the mental capacity to make a change.

Due to the complexities of proving undue influence, individuals should never try to handle a case independently. A trained estate litigator understands how to handle complex legal issues and uses the evidence to make a convincing argument that coercion did occur.

Our lawyers have successfully handled many cases where the accused used undue influence to obtain assets. Our professional legal team will help you fight to protect your legal rights.

What Type of Results Can I Expect From Your Law Firm in an Undue Influence Case?

If it can be proven that undue influence was a factor in a testator changing their will, the will may be invalidated. If no previous will has been executed, the decedent’s assets will be distributed per Utah intestacy laws.

Our estate litigation lawyers have in-depth experience handling undue influence claims and would be honored to assist you. When you come to us with your concerns, we will review the evidence and determine if your case should proceed. You must keep all evidence that could pertain to the case so our legal team has the opportunity to review it thoroughly.

Our lawyers are passionately committed to helping individuals and families receive their rightful inheritance.

Contact the law offices of Fontenot Law, P.C. of Bountiful, UT, by calling 801-448-0156 and schedule a free no-obligation consultation to discuss your potential case and how we may be able to help.

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