Undue Influence

An undue influence claim is one of the two most common ways to legally attack a trust, will, or non-probate transfer. There is a “presumption” of undue influence if: (1) the influencer obtains a substantial benefit from the document, (2) the influencer was active in procuring the document, and (3) there was a confidential relationship between the influencer and the person creating the document. Broughton v. Estate of Tyner, 600 S.W.3d 6, 11 (Mo. Ct. App. 2020).

Because no one will really ever admit to undue influence, circumstantial evidence is almost always required. Indeed, undue influence claims often rest on “elusive facts.” Id. With this in mind, Courts have created a number of different factors to consider when deciding on undue influence:

(1) the mental and physical condition of the testator; (2) evidence of power and opportunity to influence the testator by the beneficiary; (3) whether the will makes an unnatural disposition of property; (4) whether the bequest constitutes a change from a former will; (5) the hostile feelings of the beneficiary toward an expected recipient; (6) remarks of the beneficiary derogatory of the contestant; and (7) actions of the beneficiary in discouraging others from visiting the testator.

Even with these factors, Courts have repeatedly recognized that undue influence is analyzed on a case-by-case basis. Nestel v. Rohach, 529 S.W.3d 841, 845 (Mo. Ct. App. 2017).

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