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How does undue influence invalidate a will?

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2023 | Estate Planning, Probate Litigation, Wills

The court must determine if a will is valid and legitimate before authorizing an estate administrator to execute the will’s instructions. For a will to be valid, the testator must have been of sound mind and body when they signed it. However, some people, even family members, try to take advantage of elderly or sick individuals with substantial assets through manipulative tactics.

The Second District Court of Appeal in Florida describes undue influence as the use of “over-persuasion, duress, force, coercion, or artful or fraudulent contrivances to such a degree that there is destruction of the free agency and willpower of the one making the will.” In Florida, undue influence voids a will; thus, the court will consider it invalid and unenforceable.

Warning signs that the testator was under undue influence

If you believe your loved one, the testator who signed the will, was under undue influence when they signed or drafted it, then you can contest the will. It would help to recognize the warning signs of undue influence to protect your family and the testator’s legacy. Here are some things you should look out for:

  • An interested party is isolating the testator from friends and family.
  • An interested party is closely involved with the execution of the will.
  • There have been sudden modifications to the will.
  • The testator changes their estate planning lawyers and estate administrators.
  • The instructions on the will are inconsistent with the testator’s statements.
  • The vulnerability of the testator to coercion is in question due to age or diminished mental capacity.

Interested parties can be anyone who can inherit from the testator’s estate. They might have found a way to influence the testator to give you less than what you legally should inherit so that they get more. They might have even influenced or forced the testator to disinherit you from the estate altogether.

What happens when the will is void?

If you challenge the validity of the will and the court determines it is invalid, the distribution of the testator’s estate will follow Florida’s intestate succession laws. You might be able to claim what was rightfully yours from the start.