How Undue Influence Affects Your Entire Estate Plan in Florida
When you are creating or updating your Florida estate plan, it should reflect your wishes. It should not involve any outside pressure or coercion. Florida law has established laws and procedures to prevent someone from using their influence to sway how someone else drafts their estate plan. Trying to force someone or influence how they opt to distribute their assets is known as undue influence. Retaining a skilled Pompano Beach undue influence lawyer can help ensure that the state plan is free from any coercion or undue influence and that the actions taken reflect the desired wishes of the testator.
What Exactly is Undue Influence?
Undue influence has several definitions, but the general meaning is the use of force, coercion, or over persuasion to hamper or destroy the will power and free agency of the person making their estate plan, known as the Testator. For undue influence to apply, the testator must be under the persuasion or control of another person to the extent that the Testator’s free agency is destroyed. When this happens, the estate plan will not reflect the Testator’s wishes, but will instead represent the person exercising undue influence.
When the Testator passes away, and the estate administration begins, the undue influence may now become apparent. That leads to disputes and at least one family member contesting the will. If the family can prove undue influence, the Court will revoke the Will.
How to Prevent Undue Influence
Florida law requires that the Testator sign their Will at the end. There must be at least two people who witness the Will signing, and they must also sign it. The Testator can authorize the self-proof of the Will by using an affidavit, including affidavits from the Witnesses as well. If a Will doesn’t meet Florida’s technical execution statutory requirements, the Will is not valid.
One of the main problems in Florida relates to how many wills are not executed properly. Questions as to the execution of a Will properly can also open the door for questions regarding undue influence.
How to Challenge Undue Influence
Anyone who has an interest in the Testator’s estate has the right to challenge the Will in probate court. To start, the Petitioner needs to submit evidence that shows evidence of undue influence. In some situations, there may be a presumption of undue influence. For example, if the Petitioner can show that someone who benefits substantially under the decedent’s Will had a close confidential relationship with them and also played an active role in procuring or preparing the Will, then the presumption will arise.
If the Petitioner can prove to the Court that there was undue influence, then the Court can opt to void portions or the Will entirely.
It’s important to point out that undue influence can affect other parts of someone’s estate, including non-probate assets. Someone might use undue influence to have their name added as beneficiary to payable on death accounts or life insurance policies, etc. It’s important to pay close attention to all aspects of your loved ones’ estate plans.
Contact a Florida Undue Influence Lawyer
If you suspect undue influence related to a family member’s estate plan, it’s important to speak with an attorney right away. You only have a limited amount of time to challenge these documents. Contact Mark R. Manceri, P.A. today to schedule a consultation.