Denver Undue Influence Lawyer

Undue influence occurs when one person improperly coerces, manipulates, or exploits another person – usually a senior citizen or other vulnerable victims – for financial gain. While the law presumes that a person understands the meaning and the legal implications of a document they sign, a claim of undue influence can be used to challenge the validity of agreements, including powers of attorney, deeds, contracts, loans, and beneficiary designations, as well as wills and trusts.

Colorado law sets forth strict requirements for a will or trust to be valid.  The law presumes that a person who makes a will or trust has mental capacity and is not operating under undue influence.  Nonetheless, the validity of a will or trust can be challenged for several reasons, including lack of testamentary intent or capacity, undue influence, fraud, duress, mistake, or revocation.  Undue influence is one of the most common bases that interested parties utilize to contest the validity of a will, trust, power of attorney, or property transfer. If you need help contesting the validity of a testamentary document, speak with the Denver undue influence attorneys at our firm. Our probate litigation attorneys could review your case and prepare you for any legal proceedings.

What Is Undue Influence?

Undue influence occurs when one party threatens or uses force at the time of making a will to deprive the testator, typically an elderly preson, of free choice, causing them to make at least part of the will differently than they otherwise would have. Undue influence is often committed by people who are in a position of trust who can control the victim’s finances and living situation. This commonly includes close or confidential relationships such as intimate partners (often a new husband or wife), relatives, paid or unpaid caregivers, friends, neighbors, clergy, and fiduciaries such as agents under a power of attorney, trustees, guardians, or conservators.

According to Margaret Singer, PhD, a noted psychologist, undue influence is indicated by:

  • Isolation from others. Telling the victim that they were abandoned by their relatives and cutting off outside communication by telling visitors or callers that the victim does not want to see or talk to them.
  • Building a siege mentality. Making the victim believe that enemies (including health care providers and family members) are lurking everywhere and convincing elderly victims that these “enemies” are going to take away their houses, pensions and Social Security, and that they are going to put them in nursing homes.
  • Fostering dependency.  Creating the fiction that the influencer is the only trustworthy person and the only one who cares about the victim.
  • Creating a sense of powerlessness. Persuading the victim that the influencer in the only person who has the power to help.
  • Making the victim fearful by exaggerating their illnesses and disabilities.

A lawyer in Denver could assess someone’s case and determine if their elderly loved one is a victim of undue influence.

How is Undue Influence Proved in Court?

The interested party contesting the validity of the will or trust generally has the burden to prove that the testator was subject to undue influence when making their will or trust.  However, where a confidential relationship exists between the testator and a beneficiary, the law creates a rebuttable presumption of undue influence.

Undue influence usually cannot be established by direct evidence but must be shown by the circumstances surrounding the transaction.  This proof is even more difficult when the victim is dead or disabled and they cannot answer questions about why they made their will or trust the way they did.  In those situations, fact witnesses, such as the decedent’s family members, care takers, treating physicians, health care professionals, and estate planning attorney, may be necessary to testify about victim’s testamentary intent.  In many cases, it may be advantageous to enlist the assistance of expert witnesses such as a forensic psychologist or a certified public accountant. A Denver attorney could help someone prove undue influence in court.

Contact a Denver Undue Influence Attorney

If you believe that somebody you love is the victim of undue influence, you should look for an attorney with knowledge and experience in the probate or district court.  The Denver undue influence lawyers at Reynolds Gillette LLC are experienced in these cases and offer free case consultations. Reach out today.

Reynolds Gillette LLC

Reynolds Gillette LLC