Recognized indications of undue influence include
- Provisions that are unnatural, cutting off from any substantial bequests the natural objects of the decedent’s bounty;
- Dispositions at variance with the decedent’s intentions, expressed before and after the document’s execution;
- Relations existing between the chief beneficiaries and the decedent that afforded the former an opportunity to control the testamentary act;
- A testator whose mental and physical condition was such as to permit a subversion of his or her freedom of will; and
- A chief beneficiary under the will or trust who was active in procuring the execution of the instrument.
Factors that must be considered to determine whether a result was produced by undue influence include the vulnerability of the victim, the influencer’s apparent authority, the actions or tactics used by the influencer, and the equity of the result Evidence of an inequitable result, without more, is not sufficient to prove undue influence.
For purposes of will and trust contests, “undue influence” means “excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will and results in inequity.”
The statutory definition of undue influence supplements the common-law meaning of the term, without superseding or interfering with the operation of that law. Under the common law, undue influence is conduct that subjugates the testator’s or settlor’s will to that of another, causing a disposition different from that which the testator or settlor would have made if permitted to follow his or her own inclinations.Undue influence is established when it is shown that a testamentary disposition was brought about by undue pressure, argument, entreaty, or other coercive acts that destroyed the testator’s freedom of choice so that it can fairly be said that the testator was not a free agent when making his or her will. Proof of general influence or opportunity to influence is not enough; there must be proof that the influence was used directly to procure the instrument.