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Undue Influence

Trust/Will Contests: Navigating Undue Influence in California

Understanding Undue Influence Contests

Undue influence involves improper manipulation or coercion that compels an individual to make decisions against their own wishes. In the context of will and trust challenges, allegations of undue influence can arise when there are concerns about the validity of the estate planning document.

Key Indicators of Undue Influence:

California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 15610.70 describes the indicators of undue influence. In general the key factors are:

Vulnerability of the Trustor:

Undue influence cases often hinge on whether the testator/trustor was susceptible to undue influence as a result of diminished mental or physical capacity.

Isolation of the Trustor:

If the testator/trustor is isolated from family and friends, it may raise suspicions of undue influence.

Confidential Relationships:

Undue influence may be more likely if there is a confidential or fiduciary relationship between the influencer and the person who executed the instrument.

Inequitable Benefits:

Significant and inequitable benefits gained by the influencer through the estate planning instrument may be a red flag.

Initiating a Contest Based on Undue Influence

1. Legal Standing:

Beneficiaries, heirs, or interested parties who suspect undue influence may contest estate planning instruments, challenging their validity.

2. Burden of Proof:

The party contesting the trust typically bears the burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that undue influence played a role in the creation of the trust. The burden of proof may be shifted in certain circumstances in which there is a presumption of undue influence.

3. Legal Remedies:

If a will or trust is successfully contested based on undue influence, the court may declare the trust invalid or modify its terms.

How Estate Law California APC Can Assist

Estate Law California APC specializes in handling will and trust contests involving allegations of undue influence. Estate Law California APC’s services include:

Case Evaluation:

Assessing the merits of a will or trust challenge, considering the elements of undue influence.

Evidence Gathering through Discovery:

Collecting and presenting clear and convincing evidence to support or refute the allegations of undue influence.

Litigation Representation:

Advocating for clients in court during trust contest proceedings.

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