Estate planning documents, such as wills, should reflect their drafter’s genuine intentions. That is not always the case, however. Sometimes, an unscrupulous person takes advantage of the estate planner to receive some benefit from the estate.
Undue influence, one of the grounds for contesting a will, occurs when some interested party pressures a person to draft a will that runs counter to the drafter’s wishes. In Florida, proving undue influence requires addressing three elements.
1. Substantial beneficiary
For a person to have exercised undue influence over the drafter of a will, he or she must be a substantial beneficiary of the will. That is, he or she must stand to benefit from the estate planning document. This typically means the influencer must receive some contested asset from the estate.
2. A confidential relationship
In addition to being the substantial beneficiary of the will, the undue influencer must also have a confidential relationship with the drafter of the will. This relationship can be a formal one, such as attorney-client, or a personal one. Either way, the relationship must give the influencer an opportunity to manipulate the estate plan.
3. Active procurement
Finally, the undue influencer must have done something to actively procure the will. That is, he or she must have played some role in the creation or execution of the document. This role usually does not have to be a major one, however.
A friend or relative of a deceased person does not have to stand idly by while assets go to an undue influencer. If someone exploited a confidential relationship and played a role in the drafting of the will, the deceased person’s relatives or friends may have grounds to contest the document.