Undue Influence & Probate Research Projects
Research Focus State, Idaho: Elder Abuse, Undue Influence Cases & Probate Precedents.
1. Undue influence may be inferred from the fact that the beneficiary was active in the preparation of the will. In re Lunders’ Estate, (1953) 74 Idaho 448, 454, 263 P.2d 1002; Estate of Randall, (1939) 60 Idaho 419, 93 P.2d 1.
2. Undue influence has been defined as domination by the guilty party over the testator to such an extent that his free agency is destroyed and the will of another person substituted for that of the testator. In re Eggan’s Estate, 86 Idaho 328, 386 P.2d 563(1963); In re Lunders’ Estate, supra.
3. Although conclusive rights should not be given it, the fact that the testator having the capacity and ability to do so failed for a substantial period of time to change or revoke a will alleged to be the product of undue influence, negatives the claim of undue influence.” 94 C.J.S. Wills § 261, p.1143. With respect to a will which also continued unchanged for two years prior to the testator’s death, calling it strong evidence that he was not coerced into making it, but that it was entirely satisfactory to him when made and that satisfaction continued until his death.”Laberee v. Laberee, 112 Or. 44, 53, 227 P. 460, 462, 228 P. 686; In re McCaslin’s Estate (1960) 222 Or.599, 352 P.2d 1111.
4. If, prior to executing his last will, a testator shows a continuity of purpose running through his former wills and codicils which indicates a settled intent or consistent state of mind on his part as to manner of distributing his estate, such fact may be considered in determining whether he is in possession of a disposing mind, that is, had testamentary capacity and was free from undue influence in making his last will.” In re Nelson’s Estate, 72 Wyo. 444,266 P.2d 238 (1954); In re Hart’s Estate, 107 Cal.App.2d 60, 67, 236 P.2d 884, 889.
5. Weakened mental and physical condition of Testator are factors to be considered in determining question of undue influence. Estate of Brown, 52 Idaho 286, 15 P.2d 604; In re Lunders’ Estate, 74 Idaho 448, 263 P.2d 1002.
6. “Undue influence consists of domination by guilty party over testator to such extent that his freeagency is destroyed and will of another person is substituted for that of testator.” Witthoft v. Gathe, 38 Idaho 175, 221 P. 124; In re Lunders’ Estate, 74 Idaho 448, 263 P.2d 1002.
7. Undue influence is any means employed upon and with testator which under circumstances and conditions by which testator was surrounded, he could not well resist, and which controls his volition and induced him to do what otherwise would not have been done. In re Eggan’s Estate, 86 Idaho 328, 386 P.2d 563.
8. Influence arising from gratitude, affection or esteem is not undue, nor can it become such unless it destroys the free agency of the testator at the time the instrument is executed and shows that the disposition therein results from fraud, imposition and restraint of the person whose superior will prompts the execution of the testament in the particular manner which the testator adopted. In re Estate of Hill, 198 Or. 307, 335, 256 P.2d 735, 747; In re McCaslin’s Estate, 222 Or. 599, 352 P.2d 1111.
9. Influence gained by kindness and affection will not be regarded as undue if no imposition or fraud be practiced, even though it induced Testator to make unequal disposition of his property in favor of those who contributed to his comfort. In re Reddaway’s Estate, 214 Or. 410, 329 P.2d 886.
10. It is not sufficient for the contestant to merely prove circumstances consistent with the exercise of undue influence; that before the will can be overthrown the circumstances must be inconsistent with the voluntary action on the part of the testator. In re Welch’s Estate, 43 Cal.2d 173, 272 P.2d 512 (1954).
11. Mere existence of a confidential relationship to testator does not in itself establish undue influence. To set aside a will on the ground of undue influence there must be shown influence used directly to procure will, amounting to coercion destroying free agency on part of testator.In re Eggan’s Estate, 86 Idaho 328, 386 P.2d 563.
12. A will cannot be impeached by the subsequent oral declarations of the Testator. Gwin v. Gwin, 5Idaho 271, 48 P. 295.
13. The declarations of a testator made after the execution of a will showing his dissatisfaction therewith and his intention to execute a new will are not admissible to show that said will was executed under duress or undue influence. Gwin v. Gwin, 5 Idaho 271, 48 P. 295.
14. The general rule established by the overwhelming weight of authority is that declarations of the testator not made contemporaneously with the execution of the will, or so near thereto as to constitute a part of the res gestae, are not competent as direct or substantive evidence of the truth of the matters stated when offered on the issue of undue influence inducing the execution of the will. In re Estate of Wayne, 134 Or. 464, 291 P. 356, 294 P. 590,79 A.L.R. 1427; 148 A.L.R.1225.
15. A confidential relation exists between two persons, whether their relations be such as are technically fiduciary or merely informal, whenever one trusts in or relies on another. The question is whether or not trust was reposed. Sewell v. Ladd, (Mo.App. 1942) 158 S.W.2d 752,756.16. The existence of a confidential relation is purely a question of fact. Ringer v. Finrock, (Pa. 1941) 17 A.2d 348, 350.
17. A confidential relation may exist as a matter of fact whenever one person has reposed a special confidence in another to the extent that the parties do not deal with each other on equal terms, either because of an overmastering dominance on one side, or weakness, dependence or ignorance on the other side. Ringer v. Finrock, (1941) 340 Pa. 458, 17 A.2d 348, 350; Floyd v. Green, (1939) 238 Ala. 42, 188 So. 867, 871; In re Null’s Estate, (1930) 302 Pa. 64, 153 A. 137,139; In re Day’s Estate, (1953) 198 Or. 518, 257 P.2d 609, 614.
18. Where the beneficiary took the testator to a lawyer and remained with the testator during the preparation and execution of the will, even though the beneficiary was outside of the lawyer’s office, or in the waiting room, while the testator was conferring with the lawyer and while thewill was being executed, there is such evidence of activity in the preparation of the will that undue influence may be inferred from the presence of the beneficiary in this manner. In re Lunders’ Estate, (1953) 74 Idaho 448, 451, 263 P.2d 1002; Estate of Randall, (1939) 60 Idaho419, 93 P.2d 1; In re Gagliasso’s Estate, (1957) 150 Cal.App.2d 65, 309 P.2d 513, 514; In re Estate of Leonard, (1949) 92 Cal.App. 420, 207 P.2d 66, 72.
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Research assistance and citation’s courtesy of regional grass roots elder rights advocates & affiliated vulnerable person organizations.