Unfortunately, some heirs and beneficiaries take advantage of their close relationship with a parent, uncle, sister, relative, or someone they are helping out in order to get that person to write a will that favors them.
Georgia probate law is aware that this pressure occurs and has created various laws that regulate wills created through undue influence.
What is Undue Influence?
The Georgia probate courts examine the following factors to determine if a will was created through undue influence:
- Did the person who benefits from the will have a confidential relationship with the person who drafted the will. A confidential relationship generally requires that the decedent depended on the other person for help.
- Normally a decedent leaves his/her assets to a spouse and children. If the will favors one child over another or leaves assets to people who would not normally be expected to get them, then undue influence may have occurred. The court will look into whether the testator’s disposition was reasonable and expected given the family circumstances.
- The physical, mental, and emotional abilities of the testator. Wills are more suspect if the testator was frail than in relatively good health.
- The person who unreasonably benefited and was in a confidential relationship was the one who suggested or pressured the testator to change an existing will or draft a new one.
Some Suspicious Indications of Undue Influence
A few examples that might suggest undue influence of the decedent took place are:
- If the testator was elderly, had Alzheimer’s or some cognitive illness, was not well-educated, or was unlikely to question the motives of others.
- Influencers who had financial problems or social problems such as alcoholism or dependency on drugs.
- Whether the influencer prevented other family members and other logical beneficiaries from visiting with the testator. If the influencer always had to be with the other beneficiaries in the presence of the testator – that could raise a suspicion too.
- If the influencer was going through a divorce or was subject himself/herself to pressures from a spouse.
- If the influencer was not a person. Banks and organizations such as nonprofits can be listed as beneficiaries in a will too.
- Whether the influencer not only benefits from the will but is named personal representative of the will.
Each situation is different, and many will distributions are logical upon further review. Other times, the suspicions of a potential heir or other relative are accurate and legal representation can help families through the process in an already difficult time.
Contact Brian M. Douglas and Associates Today
If you suspect a will has been created under undue influence, or have been subjected to a false complaint of undue influence please phone Georgia lawyer Brian M. Douglas at (770) 933-9009 to review your case.