What Does Undue Influence Mean in Florida Estate Planning?
Many people have heard the term undue influence, but what exactly does it mean? The legal concept of undue influence in Florida law is an important one. When someone exercises undue influence over a victim’s person’s assets, will, or money, a Florida court can invalidate the victim’s estate planning documents.
A typical example of undue influence in Florida would a caretaker taking advantage of an older person by threatening him if the elderly person doesn’t make him the sole beneficiary in his will. Or, an undue influencer could take advantage of an elderly person by persuading them to transfer assets or money to themselves.
If someone improperly exerted undue influence over you or a loved one, the skilled St. Petersburg estate planning attorneys at Legacy Protection Lawyers are here to help. The attorneys at Legacy Protection Lawyers have years of experience representing clients in Florida estate and trust litigation.
What Constitutes Undue Influence in Florida?
Undue influence is very hard to prove through direct evidence. Recognizing that difficulty the courts have established a presumption that undue influence exists if certain facts are established. The Florida court case In re Estate of Carpenter, 253 So. 2d 697 (Fla. 1971) sets forth some of the factors a court will consider to raise a presumption of undue influence. A Florida court will presume undue influence occurred when an influencer is a “substantial beneficiary” of the will or asset transferred; occupied a “confidential relationship” with the person who owned the assets and was active in procuring the document which names the influencer as a beneficiary.
The first part of the test requires that the alleged undue influencer must benefit from the will or estate plan of the testator. In other words, when the victim of undue influence dies, the influencer will benefit from inheriting money or assets per the estate plan.
What Constitutes “Active procurement” in Florida?
The Carpenter court gives several different criteria to determine active procurement to include:
- The beneficiary was present during the execution of the will
- The beneficiary was present when the testator stated a desire to create a will
- The beneficiary knew the likely contents of the will before the testator executed the will
- The beneficiary recommended that an attorney draw up a will for the testator
- The beneficiary gave the attorney instructions on how the testator should prepare the will
- The beneficiary found the witnesses to the will
After the execution of the will, the beneficiary kept the will safe
All or some of the factors listed above indicate that a person exercised undue influence over the testator when the testator drew up the will. The overarching element of undue influence is that the influencer was actively engaged in the transfer of property or the execution of the will and swayed the testator’s decision making.
Undue Influence Claims Are Complex and Require Skilled Estate Litigation Attorneys
If a court finds that a presumption of undue influence has been established, then the Court should invalidate a will, trust, or asset transfer unless the “influencer” can prove by the greater weight of the evidence that the gift was not the product of undue influence. Dealing with undue influence can be challenging. Whether you need assistance proving or disproving undue influence in a Florida estate plan, our Florida estate & trust litigation attorneys at Legacy Protection Lawyers, LLP can help. Contact our office today to set up your estate planning consultation.