As someone involved in probate proceedings in Massachusetts, you may be familiar with the term “undue influence,” but you may not fully comprehend what it means or how allegations of undue influence can potentially impact will contests or other probate proceedings. At Kajko, Weisman & Colasanti, LLP, we understand that undue influence can occur when one party works to influence the decision of another for his or her own personal gain. We also have considerable experience helping clients navigate this and many similar probate-related issues.
Per the American Bar Association, the concept of “undue influence” can be a bit difficult to define, but allegations of it are common in cases involving disputed wills or trusts, or petitions for guardianships or conservatorships. Generally, most courts will agree that undue influence can occur when one party that has a confidential or fiduciary relationship with another party acts in a manner that benefits him or her, rather than the person at the center of the case.
In determining whether undue influence actually occurred in a particular case, a court will often look at several key factors. For example, a court will typically take into account the vulnerability of the alleged victim in an undue influence case to figure out whether this person was in a position where someone else could reasonably take advantage of him or her.
The court will likely also look at the extent of the authority the alleged victim had over the other party when making decisions regarding undue influence as well as the tactics and methods used by the alleged influencer. Courts will also consider the end result of the influencer’s actions before making final decisions regarding undue influence, and whether the person subjected to influence experienced some sort of loss because of them. You can find more on this subject on our webpage.