In Undue Influence in Making Bequests: A Forensic Psychiatrist Examines the Evidence, undue influence expert witness Stephen M. Raffle, M.D., writes:
Undue influence when creating a will, codicil to amend a will, trust or other legal instrument, occurs when the conduct of another prevents a testator (or anyone for that matter) from exercising his or her free will. The occurrence of undue influence is established by demonstrating that the testator’s testamentary disposition was caused by undue pressure, argument, or other coercive acts which destroyed the testator’s freedom of choice in the disposition of the assets of his or her estate, and is replaced by the substituted judgment/wishes of another. Litigants may characterize the circumstances as perceived or misperceived exploitation of a vulnerable individual, especially as we see a generation of baby boomers reach ages at risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s, both medical conditions best assessed by a medical doctor. Undue influence may be proven with circumstantial evidence, i.e., without direct evidence. It is necessary to demonstrate by fact that undue influence has occurred. Often the term “undue influence” in a testamentary setting is lumped with the phrases “testamentary capacity” and “competency” to make a Will or Trust. A dispute about testamentary capacity may arise in the same case as undue influence, but from the forensic psychiatrist’s point of view, the issues are different. The making of Wills vs. Trusts have different thresholds of competency and the distinction is important to understand when evaluating if susceptibility to undue influence is considered.
There are various indicia of undue influence. Those indicia include, but are not limited to, the following: