Litigation Is Our Strong Suit Millions Recovered On Behalf Of Our Clients

Undue Influence in Alabama

In the realm of estate disputes, will contests, and trust litigation, our clients are often the target of someone alleging that client practiced undue influence on a deceased individual, and as a result coerced said individual to change his or her will, trust or convey property to the client, for the benefit of the client and to the detriment of the accuser.  Alternatively, our lawyers have also represented victims who have been disinherited or whose inheritance was detrimentally impacted by the actions of the perpetrator of undue influence on the deceased individual.  Our lawyers have an in depth understanding of undue influence and how it may or may not have played a role in a deceased individual changing his or her estate plan.

We have litigated a broad spectrum of cases alleging undue influence and have obtained exceptional results for our clients in Foley, Fairhope, Daphne and Mobile.  If you have been accused of practicing undue influence or if the actions of another have impacted your inheritance, call us now at 251-444-7000 or toll free at 855-390-5566 and ask for a free consultation.

Real Cases of Undue Influence We Have Litigated

To understand undue influence better, let’s take a few fact scenarios from actual cases our estate dispute lawyers have litigated in Baldwin County and Mobile County, Alabama:

  • A case out of Foley, Alabama where a hired caregiver isolated an elderly woman from her family members, obtained a power of attorney over her financial accounts, and hired an attorney to facilitate a change to her will appointing caregiver as personal representative and sole beneficiary of the elderly woman’s estate. We represented the family of elderly woman.
  • A case out of Fairhope, Alabama where an unmarried brother with no children had a long-standing plan to leave all his estate to his sibling.  However, the sibling lived in Texas and after brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, a friend of the brother’s moved in with him to take care of him.  At the time of brother’s death, it was uncovered that two months before his death, brother had changed his estate plan to cut out sibling completely and left everything to his friend.  We represented the sibling.
  • A case out of Mobile, Alabama involved a mother who had two sons.  Both her sons predeceased her and mother’s estate plan left everything equally to each son’s family.  However, as mother aged, she increasingly suffered from anxiety and fear of being forced to move into a nursing home.  Daughter-in-law from one side of the family brought up a discussion of moving mother into an assisted living as an option, and a granddaughter from the other side of the family opposed this and fought back. Mother changed her estate plan and made the granddaughter the sole beneficiary, trustee and personal representative of her estate.  We represented the granddaughter.
  • A case out of Daphne, Alabama comprised of a disabled individual who was allegedly taken advantage of by a woman who purported to love and care for him. The disabled individual’s brother, his only living family member, lived in North Alabama and had been listed as disabled individual’s sole beneficiary under a will for over a decade. Upon disabled individual’s death, it was determined that he had only known said woman for a few months and had transferred all his assets, including real property, to her during his lifetime.  We represented the brother.
  • Another case out of Mobile, Alabama where a husband just lost his wife of 54 years, and within three months of losing his wife, created an estate plan leaving everything to a new girlfriend and not his natural heirs at law.  We represented the new girlfriend.

All of the above are real cases that we have litigated, and in each and every case, undue influence was one of the main allegations that was made and argued.  Did the caregiver practice undue influence?  Did the friend take advantage of the dying brother, or was the change in the estate plan the true wishes of the dying brother? Did the granddaughter play a role in further preying on mother’s fears of nursing homes and thereby accomplished a favorable change in mother’s estate plan, or was the mother upset with the treatment she received from her daughter-in-law? Did the woman dupe a vulnerable disabled individual, or was he in love and wanted her to have all of these assets?  Was the husband, who was otherwise mentally competent, unduly influenced by his new girlfriend to create an estate plan favoring only her?

The answers to these questions are not straightforward and our estate dispute lawyers have the time and resources to investigate these matters. Lets us investigate your claim.

Proving Undue Influence

Undue influence is not something that happens out in the open in the presence of witnesses that can testify as to whether or not someone practiced undue influence on another.  Instead, undue influence and proving it and/or defending it in the Court of law is complicated.  It requires you hiring an estate dispute lawyer who has a complete understanding of the elements of undue influence and what evidence it takes to create a presumption of undue influence.

Under Alabama law, in order to create a presumption of undue influence, the accuser must show that a confidential relationship existed between the favored beneficiary and alleged victim, that the favored beneficiary’s influence over the alleged victim was controlling, and there was undue activity on the part of the favored beneficiary in obtaining the desired change in estate plan.

Evaluating Undue Influence

In evaluating undue influence cases in accordance with Alabama law, our estate dispute attorneys use four different models, namely, IDEAL model, SCAM model, Singer/Nievod model, and Brandle/Heisler/Stiegel model.  These models focus on social conditions present, victim’s susceptibility and the undue activity that alleged perpetrator engages in procuring of a legal and/or financial transaction, including, without limitation:

  • age of victim,
  • recently widowed men and women,
  • isolation of victim from family and friends,
  • the extent to which the victim depends on the alleged perpetrator, including food preparation, medication assistance, paying bills and managing financial affairs, reading bank statements, transporting victim to doctor’s offices, presence of perpetrator during times of irrational fears, emotional support and encouragement,
  • susceptibility of the victim to emotional manipulation,
  • financial loss,
  • the acquiescence of the victim,
  • impaired cognition and lack of capacity of victim,
  • victim’s knowledge and previous spending habits,
  • recent loss of a loved one by victim,
  • keeping victim unaware or uninformed of legal or financial transactions,
  • transferring funds into joint bank accounts where victim and perpetrator are joint owners,
  • changes in victim’s estate plan that are not consistent with a previous disposition,
  • alleged perpetrator schedules appointments with and/or hires a notary and attorney to make changes to estate plan,
  • alleged perpetrator provides transportation to the bank to make account changes beneficial to the perpetrator,
  • alleged perpetrator preys on vulnerabilities,
  • lack of faith in own abilities, and
  • creation of fear.

Contact Our Estate Dispute Lawyers

The foregoing are just a few factors to consider when evaluating the presence of undue influence.  If you or some you know has been alleged to have practiced undue influence in the procurement of a legal or financial transaction, or if you or someone you know has been financially hurt and/or your inheritance detrimentally impacted by the actions of someone, call Caldwell Wenzel & Asthana, PC and ask to speak with one of our estate and trust litigation attorneys at 251-444-7000 or toll free at 855-390-5566 today.

Need Legal Assistance in Alabama?

Our Trusted Firm Is Here to Help.