A Texas will is not legally valid if the actions or threats of one or more other parties had an undue influence on the person executing the will. However, mere suspicion of undue influence is not enough.
To invalidate a will on the grounds of undue influence the contesting party must provide sufficient evidence.
Proving undue influence
The party contesting a will must prove that it is more likely than not that the person who executed a will was unduly influenced. This is often difficult to do because there is usually little to no direct evidence to present. Instead, most plaintiffs must rely on circumstantial evidence.
The contestant must be able to demonstrate that three elements of undue influence occurred:
- Accused party exerted influence on the executor
- Influence overpowered or subverted the will of the executor at the time of execution
- Executor would not have executed the will had it not been for the undue influence
Factors considered by the court
The courts consider a variety of factors when determining whether a party exerted undue influence on the executor of a will. These factors include the nature and type of relationship between the executor, the contestants and the party accused of undue influence. They also include motive, opportunity and capacity.
While a contestant may win based only on circumstantial evidence, the evidence must be very strong and convincing. Because a motion for summary judgment is often filed in these cases, it is important for anyone contesting a will on the grounds of undue influence to build a strong case from the start.