Gathering Evidence for Undue Influence Claims

When your loved one passes away, you expect that their overall estate plan will accurately reflect their intentions. However, there are instances where these documents may not accurately represent those wishes because of undue influence from another party that you weren’t previously aware of.

In such cases, challenging the document’s validity becomes necessary to ensure fairness and justice for the decadent. Understanding how to gather evidence effectively is the first crucial step in this process.

Establishing a Substantial Benefit 

The first step in gathering evidence for an undue influence claim is establishing a substantial benefit to the individual(s) accused of exerting undue influence. This involves demonstrating that the individual(s) stands to gain significantly from the existing will or trust. It’s essential to scrutinize the document for any unusual changes or provisions that disproportionately favor the accused, especially if these alterations were made when the decedent was vulnerable late in life. 

Examining bank statements, property deeds, and other financial documents can reveal transactions or changes that might not align with the decedent’s past behavior or stated intentions. Comparing the contested will to previous versions can also highlight significant deviations or changes in the distribution of the estate.

Witness testimony, especially from individuals who had discussions with the decedent about their estate plans, can provide valuable insights into the decedent’s true intentions and any perceived pressure or influence. Investigating the circumstances surrounding signing the will is also beneficial, as well as looking for any signs of pressure or haste.

Examining the Relationship 

The second step focuses on proving a confidential relationship between the decedent and the accused, where the decedent places significant trust in the accused, possibly to the extent of sharing personal or financial secrets. This step requires collecting evidence of the nature and extent of the relationship between the decedent and the accused. Documents showing the accused’s role in managing the decedent’s finances or personal affairs can be telling. 

Additionally, communication records, such as emails and letters, can indicate the level of influence and trust the decedent placed in the accused. Witness accounts from friends, family members, and caregivers who observed the dynamics of the relationship firsthand can further substantiate claims of a confidential relationship. Proving the accused’s active role in creating or modifying the will is also pivotal. Evidence that the accused isolated the decedent from other family members or took steps to secure their appointment as executor or trustee can be particularly damning.

Gathering evidence for an undue influence claim is a detailed and nuanced process that requires a comprehensive approach. Claimants can build a strong case by meticulously collecting and presenting evidence of both a substantial benefit to the accused and the existence of a confidential relationship. However, the complexities involved in such instances necessitate professional legal assistance.

Secure the Legacy of Your Loved Ones with Luis E. Barreto & Associates 

If you suspect undue influence in the estate of a loved one, taking prompt action is vital. Contact Luis E. Barreto and Associates for a consultation to discuss your situation. We will guide you through gathering evidence and pursuing justice to ensure your loved one’s true intentions are honored.

Luis E. Barreto