What’s The Difference Between Undue Influence And Lack Of Capacity In Estate Litigation?
Estate litigation is a complex process, and understanding the nuances of undue influence and lack of capacity can make all the difference. It is not uncommon for interested parties, including beneficiaries, to challenge the validity of a will or trust based on undue influence or lack of capacity.
Below, we will discuss what constitutes undue influence and lack of capacity in estate litigation. If you are considering contesting the validity of an estate planning document, seek legal counsel from a Pompano Beach undue influence lawyer at Mark R. Manceri, P.A., to discuss your case. Our attorney will explain your best course of action, given your particular circumstances.
What Is Undue Influence?
Undue influence is a legal term used to describe a situation where someone has been coerced or persuaded into making decisions that reflected the wishes of the undue influencer as opposed to the victim. In estate litigation cases, it often refers to situations where one party has exerted pressure on another to make changes to their will or trust. For example, if one person convinces another to add them as a beneficiary or exclude certain individuals from receiving an inheritance, they may be accused of exerting undue influence.
In order for an accusation of undue influence to be successful, there must be proof that the person exerting the pressure had a fiduciary relationship with the victim—meaning that they were in a position of trust or authority over them—and that they were aware that their actions could lead to harm. It is also important to note that while not all forms of coercion constitute undue influence (such as friendly persuasion), any form of coercion should be taken seriously when it comes to estate planning matters.
What Is Lack of Capacity?
Lack of capacity refers to an individual’s inability to make decisions about their own estates due to mental incapacity or illness. In these cases, the court will appoint someone (usually a close family member) who can act on behalf of the incapacitated individual and make decisions about their estates on their behalf.
The court may also appoint an independent guardian ad litem who can provide an unbiased opinion on what would be best for the incapacitated individual’s estate. This typically happens when different parties are contesting an estate plan or will, and there is some question about whether or not the testator had full capacity at the time they made it.
Note: In Florida, a minimum level of testamentary capacity is required to create a valid will. Under Florida Statutes § 732.501, you can make a valid will if you are (a) of sound mind and (b) at least 18 years of age.
Discuss Your Particular Situation with Mark R. Manceri, P.A.
Whether you are involved in estate litigation yourself or just want to understand more about undue influence and lack of capacity in general, knowing these key differences can help you better prepare yourself for whatever challenges you may face moving forward.
If you have any questions or need assistance with your particular situation, reach out to our knowledgeable estate litigation attorney at Mark R. Manceri, P.A., for assistance. Call 954-491-7099 today for a case evaluation.