Fraudulent Inducement: Was Your Loved One Tricked?
Few things can sadden you more than realizing that your loved one was tricked during the making of his or her will. While it’s natural to already have strong emotions about the passing of someone you care for, believing they may have been the victim of fraud prior to death can be overwhelming.
A common type of fraud committed against the elderly is called fraudulent inducement. This is a special method fraudsters use to trick people into creating estate plans that benefit them. If you believe you need a Fort Myers fraudulent will lawyer, please contact South West Florida Probate Trial Lawyers today for help.
Fraudulent inducement is essentially a misrepresentation that leads to the testator — or person making the will — making decisions he or she wouldn’t have normally made, based on the misrepresentation.
In Florida, the courts have a specific definition for this kind of trickery and if your situation satisfies this definition, the will of your loved one will likely be deemed invalid. The legal standard is easy to understand, but that doesn’t mean even intelligent or attentive people might not be tricked.
From the outside looking in, we can help you understand if you or your loved one was the victim of fraudulent inducement — but remember, inducement is a lie.
Falling for a lie isn’t your loved one’s fault. Someone manipulated the elderly or dying person for personal gain. At Freidin & Inglis, we take that very seriously.
Misrepresentation under Florida estate law means someone misrepresented a material fact and knew the statement was false. Often, if the person should have known the fact was misrepresented, the approach is the same. This “should have known” concept helps protect your loved ones. Anyone can pretend they “didn’t know” they lied, but this standard can help make sure that a misrepresentation is treated like the trick it is.
Intention is always an important part of the law. Someone simply lying to your loved one is not enough to bring a claim. We must also show the courts that the fraudster intended for your loved one to change his or her estate plan on the basis of the misrepresentation.
In a very simple example, if someone says something like, “Don’t worry about your cats after your passing. I’ll take care of them for you,” and they say it to be kind or to avoid the topic, knowing the cats will end up in separate homes, this is a misrepresentation — but it’s not inducement yet.
If that same person made that statement because they intended to have an elderly relative leave them thousands of dollars for a lifetime of “cat care,” that would be closer to satisfying inducement.
Proving intention can be one of the more challenging parts of a legal claim asserting fraudulent inducement. That’s why it’s vital to work with an experienced attorney who knows how to gather evidence and make a strong case in court on behalf of your loved one’s true intentions for their estate.
While even attempts at fraudulent inducement are a cause for concern within your family, from a legal perspective, the injury must actually occur. That means the person who attempted to trick your loved one did, in fact, trick your loved one into making the estate plan change.
The injured parties in this instance would be the representative of the estate or any rightful heirs because fraudulent inducement is only ripe — or ready to become a matter of a legal claim — once the testator has passed.
If this situation sounds similar to yours, please contact one of our attorneys for help immediately.