Maybe recently a parent or friend has passed away. For years you had known that you were in their will and would be receiving property or other items. However, when the time came, you were surprised to find that everything in the will went to a third party. What do you do? The creator of the will could simply have changed their mind or this could be an instance of undue influence.
Having a valid and correct will is important because it preserves the wishes of an individual after death. A will also determine who will get your assets and property, who will take care of your minor children, and what happens to your pets. Since a will can have many consequences, the law wants a will to be made voluntarily and to reflect the true wishes of the will-creator.
Undue influence in wills is when an individual takes advantage or coerces a will-creator to decide with a will that they otherwise would not have made. Undue influence takes away an individual’s free will to choose what happens with their assets, children, and other matters after their death. Often, undue influence in wills comes in the form of certain individuals trying to get a large inheritance or gifts through a will by exploiting a sick or elderly individual. Fortunately, North Carolina law has some methods to remedy a case of undue influence.
In North Carolina, the elements to find undue influence in the execution of a will are:
- The decedent is subject to influence
- Beneficiary has an opportunity to exert influence
- Beneficiary has a disposition to exert influence
- The resulting will indicate undue influence
The court looks at several factors including:
- Old age and physical and mental weakness of will-creator
- The person signing the paper is in the home of a third party (beneficiary) and is constantly being supervised.
- Others have little or no opportunity to see the signer.
- Will is different from and revokes a prior will.
- The will is different from and revokes a prior will.
- Will benefit someone who is not a part of the family.
- The beneficiary has carried out the will.
Unlike most law cases where you need to show concrete evidence of wrongdoing, in undue influence cases, the court looks to circumstantial evidence because the wrongdoer exerting that improper influence usually does so in private when no one is watching. Furthermore, in North Carolina, if a will is made under undue influence, the court will find either all or part of the will to be invalid.
Finding out that a friend or relative might have been unduly influenced is a sad and difficult realization.
But we are here to help you preserve the true wishes of a loved one. King Law Offices is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day. We serve the Upstate of South Carolina and Western North Carolina. Call (888)748-KING (5464) or send in a request form to schedule an appointment for a consultation with one of our dedicated family law attorneys.