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Defining undue influence in Texas probate law

by | Dec 16, 2019 | Fiduciary Representation |

In the most basic sense of the law, and according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, “undue influence” occurs when one party of a contract puts the free will of another party into question and therefore, leads to the courts declaring the contract unenforceable and voidable by the victim. To prove undue influence, the victim party has the burden of proof to show that he or she has a weakness which makes him or her more likely to be affected by persuasion. Moreover, the victim party must also prove that the influencer has a special relationship with the victim that makes the victim more susceptible to persuasion.

According to the Dallas Bar’s “Basics of a Will Contest and How To Avoid One,” undue influence in regards to the creation of a will is one that undermines or overpowers the mind of the decedent at the time he or she signed the probate documents. Without this influence, the decedent would not have signed the document in question.

The Dallas Bar document further explains that a person may demand, beg or simply request another to create a document in his or her favor, but unless a testator or contester can prove that the entreaties are so excessive as to undermine the will of the contract’s creator, the courts cannot and should not call into question the validity of the will. According to the case outcomes cited in the documents, a person’s mere influence over a testator to benefit him or herself in a will is not improper. However, begging that intensifies to as cross the line between beseeching and demanding is wrong and may qualify as undue influence.