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Who Can Bring A Claim Of Undue Influence?

The person who brings a lawsuit or a claim of undue influence is generally someone who would have expected to inherit or previously was named to inherit from the now-deceased person or their estate. Sometimes this is a surviving child, a surviving grandchild, and sometimes, even a surviving spouse. In Oklahoma, under the current state of the law at the time of this writing, generally only those who stand to inherit as heirs at law or previous beneficiaries of the testamentary instrument are likely to be able to bring a claim of undue influence. There is some movement in the legislature to consider expanding the list of people who can bring claims of undue influence, but that has not yet resulted in a change of the law as of the day that I am writing this. 


What Should You Do If You Suspect That There Has Been Undue Influence? 


First, you must move quickly to seek qualified legal counsel. I am urging you to seek someone who studies estate planning and probate laws. This is not a case you should take to your car accident attorney or your criminal defense attorney. It would be best to deal with someone knowledgeable of litigation in the probate and trust courts and not people who are knowledgeable in other areas of the law. You will be called upon to spend significant time, money, and effort to research the situation, and you may be in for a year or two of litigation. Of course, we hope you are never forced to consider such, but we would be happy to talk to you about your case if you are. 


Can Someone Be Deemed Incompetent To Change Their Will Or Trust?


Absolutely yes. One must have at least testamentary capacity to change their last will and testament or their trust. Testamentary capacity is not a terribly difficult task to describe. Still, sometimes it isn’t easy to know the answer to how things would have come out while the testator was alive. So, let me give you some examples. First, the testator must be able to identify who are the natural objects of their affection. Generally, this means the friends and family of the testator. Next, the testator must know, at least, in a general way, what they own. So, let me give you an example of this. I would be called on to know that I have a bank account at First State Bank, but it is probably unnecessary to understand precisely how much money is in that account. For me, it’s because we use a bookkeeping service to handle that account, and I am rarely called upon to review it, but I have to generally know what I own. 


Next, the testator must understand that in the testamentary act, he or she must know that they are signing a document that will control who receives an inheritance from their estate after they have passed. Again, this should be distinguished from a contemporaneous gift that goes into effect immediately. If the testator cannot pass these tests, it is doubtful that they can execute a binding amendment to their will or trust. 


For more information on Bringing A Claim Of Undue Influence In OK, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (405) 754-4166 today.

Terrell Monks, Esq. - Estate Planning Attorney, Edmond City

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