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PROBATE 36: Undue influence to execute Lady Bird deed.

This probate dispute between siblings arises out of the death of their father.

Their father lived alone. In 2013, however, he asked appellee to live with him. She agreed, moving into the home in August 2013. Appellants allege that in the years preceding their father’s death, appellee unduly influenced him to execute several instruments, an April 28, 2014 Lady Bird deed and several last wills executed in or after 2013.

Court Proceedings

All the witnesses agreed that their father was a strong-minded, opinionated, take-charge man and appellee did not have a good relationship with her other siblings.

According to testimony, shortly after appellee moved in with the father, appellee began bashing her siblings by stating that they were drug dealers, had picked on her when she was younger, and had been partiers and gamblers. The father seemingly began to believe appellee’s allegations, and he repeated them.

According to appellee, in October 2013, the father told her that he wanted to visit a lawyer about some personal business. She did not question him about specifics but went with him to visit a lawyer. Most of the meeting was private. At the meeting, the lawyer took steps to assure himself that the father had testamentary capacity and was under no undue influence. The attorney inquired as to the father’s motivations, and his best recollection was that their father had simply changed his mind.

Evidence

Appellee produced evidence rebutting any presumption of undue influence. Specifically, she presented evidence that the father remained a strong-willed, independent individual well after he executed the disputed instruments, that he met with the lawyer alone to discuss his wishes, and that he provided cogent reasons for his estate plan, i.e., wishing to provide for appellee in the belief that she needed such help and the others did not.

After considering the matter, the probate court found that appellants had failed to prove that the disputed instruments were the product of undue influence by appellee. In addition, the court rejected appellants’ argument that appellee had a confidential or fiduciary relationship with their father at the time he executed the disputed instruments.

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Probate litigation is complex and requires the attention of experienced and knowledgeable counsel. Our attorneys have the experience and legal know-how to protect your rights and interests.

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