By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney
Through my experiences as an Idaho estate planning attorney over the last 20 years, I have occasionally had instances where people want to challenge the last will and testament that was left by their parent, or some other family member or loved one. Often, these individuals will tell me they are sure their mom or dad would not have had that kind of a last will and testament. They are positive that their mom or dad was coerced into signing the document. They may even actually have some proof or witnesses to say that in fact there was some coercion or undue influence over their parent that caused their parent to sign their will.
The Idaho Supreme Court has addressed the issue of undue influence when it comes to a last will and testament. According to the Idaho Supreme Court “a will may be held invalid on the basis of undue influence where sufficient evidence is presented indicating that the testator’s free agency was overcome by another.” In re Estate of Roll, 115 Idaho 797, 799 770 P.2d 806, 808 (1989). Additionally, the Idaho Supreme Court has stated that “undue influence is demonstrated through proof of four elements: (1) a person who is subject to undue influence; (2) an opportunity to exert undue influence; (3) a disposition to exert undue influence; and (4) a result indicating undue influence occurred.” Gmeiner v. Yacte, 100 Idaho 1, 607, 592 P.2d 57, 62-63 (1979).
Additionally, a rebuttable presumption of undue influence is created where a beneficiary of the testator’s will is also a fiduciary of the testator such as a Personal Representative. In this instance, the proponent of the will (the person who wants the will to be valid) bears the burden of rebutting the presumption. Estate of Roll, 115 Idaho at 799, 770 P.2d at 808.
To rebut the presumption, the proponent of the will must come forward with that quantum of evidence that tends to show that no undue influence existed. Once that burden has been met, the matter becomes one for the trier of fact. The existence of undue influence will be determined accordingly, and on appeal such determination will only be disturbed if not supported by substantial, competent evidence. Id.
Evidence relevant to the question of undue influence includes the age and physical and mental condition of the one alleged to have been influenced, whether he had independent or disinterested advice in the transaction, the providence or improvidence of the gift or transaction, delay in making it known, consideration or lack or inadequacy thereof for any contract made, necessities and distress of the person alleged to have been influenced, his predisposition to make the transfer in question, the extent of the transfer in relation to his whole worth, failure to provide for his own family in the case of a transfer to a stranger, or failure to provide for all of his children in case of a transfer to one of them, active solicitations and persuasions by the other party, and the relationship of the parties. Gmeiner, 100 Idaho at 7, 592 P.2d at 63 (quoting 25 Am. Jur. 2d Duress and Undue Influence § 36 at 397 (1966)).
Based on this Idaho case law from the Idaho Supreme Court, it is not necessarily easy to challenge a will by claiming that someone was coerced or that undue influence was exerted over them. However, it can be done.
ENLIST AN IDAHO ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU
If you believe that a loved one was coerced into signing a last will and testament, we can help. When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.