Do I Have Standing To Contest Inter Vivos Transactions?
When you have an elderly loved one who has been taken advantage of, it can be hard to figure out where to start when it comes to trying to make things right. Elderly and sick individuals are especially vulnerable when it comes to being taken advantage of, for instance, by others close to them exerting undue influence. Undue influence may result in a vulnerable person being compelled to change their will or even to make gifts during their lifetime that they would not otherwise have made, and that they did not feel they had the autonomy to avoid making. If your loved one has been unduly influenced into making gifts during their lifetime, you may have standing to be able to challenge these transactions (known as inter vivos transactions) in probate court.
Who Has Legal Standing to Contest Inter Vivos Transactions?
Generally, the court will find that any interested party has standing to challenge an inter vivos transaction on the grounds of undue influence. Interested parties include anyone who stood to receive an inheritance under the will. This includes not only parties named in the will and other estate documents, but also immediate relatives who would have inherited under the state’s intestate succession statute. Florida’s intestate succession statutes primarily cover a decedent’s spouse and descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.). However, if a decedent does not have a spouse or descendants, the statute directs their inheritance to the decedent’s parents or siblings. If the decedent had a spouse or children, it is unlikely that the decedent’s parents or siblings would be considered interested parties unless they were mentioned in testamentary documents. If you have questions about whether you have standing to bring an undue influence claim with regard to inter vivos transactions, the best thing to do is consult with a Florida estate lawyer.
Contesting Inter Vivos Transactions Based on Undue Influence
In order to establish undue influence, there are certain elements that you will have to establish in court. You must be able to show that the decedent was vulnerable, that they shared a confidential relationship with someone who had apparent authority over them (such as a caregiver), and that the caregiver was active in procuring the inter vivos transfer or gift. Once you are able to establish these basic elements, the burden of proof will shift to the person accused of having unduly influenced the decedent. This means that the burden will then be on them to prove that they did not work to actively procure the inter vivos transfer, or did not meet the other elements alleged. These cases can be complicated, and it’s important to be prepared. Probate and estate litigation can be quite involved, so it’s necessary to have an experienced estate attorney on your side to advocate for the interests of both you and your loved one.
Contact Mark R. Manceri, P.A.
If you need assistance with a Florida estate or probate matter, Mark R. Manceri can help. Contact Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation lawyer Mark. R. Manceri, P.A. today to schedule a consultation and find out whether you have standing to assert a claim on behalf of your loved one.