Undue Influence: Proving Your Claim in Litigation
With the passing of a loved one, the administration of the deceased’s estate may bring a few surprises. Sometimes, certain people are unexpected beneficiaries — and this can raise more than just eyebrows.
It can raise suspicion of undue influence, a cause of action in Florida that means the beneficiary manipulated the deceased into changing his or her will. If you suspect this happened to your loved one before their death, working with a Fort Myers undue influence litigation lawyer is vital.
Beginning the process as soon as possible is also crucial because of the time limits attached to bringing a claim. Your undue influence lawyer has to find specific records and witnesses who can testify to the relationship between the beneficiary and the deceased before the claim can be proven.
While you might have become suspicious during a friendship that suddenly arose or intensified, that will not suffice as evidence. Your claim has to show that the deceased had their agency — their ability or intention to create a certain effect with their will — destroyed by a confidential relationship because the beneficiary wanted to receive benefits.
Finding this sort of evidence may require your lawyer to search records and interview people in Fort Myers, other parts of Florida or other states. This may take more time than you realize or hope, so please be sure to contact your attorney as soon as you suspect something.
What Proves Undue Influence in Florida?
In Florida, estate case law pertaining to undue influence considers the beneficiary’s relationship to the deceased during the making of the will or other testamentary documents, devises or instruments.
What sort of presence did the beneficiary have when the deceased discussed the will? Was he or she always around for sensitive discussions? Your undue influence attorney needs to know about conversations you or others witnessed that show the beneficiary influenced or tried to influence decisions during these talks. These witness accounts can provide important evidence that the deceased can no longer provide.
How much did the beneficiary know about the deceased’s estate or the contents of the will? If you can recall conversations that show the deceased knew this information or know someone who can, tell your lawyer.
Electronic records may also assist in proving this kind of claim. Text messages or emails may be admissible during litigation to show that the deceased had certain intentions that changed over the course of time as the beneficiary manipulated the deceased.
But what about when the deceased made the will? Was the beneficiary present when the deceased made testamentary documents or devices like a will or trust? Your lawyer may need to interview the attorney who made these devices — and if that attorney refuses, your lawyer may use subpoenas that compel testimony during litigation proceedings.
Essentially, your attorney needs to show how the beneficiary used the relationship with the deceased to change the deceased’s intentions. Anything that comes to mind is best communicated with your lawyer immediately. Contact Freidin & Inglis, P.A. today.