Tag Archives: Undue Influence

Virginia Has A New Standard For Undue Influence In Will Contest Cases

Beginning July 1, 2022, Virginia has a new standard for undue influence in Will contest cases. For most Will contest cases in Virginia, the standard for undue influence will now involve a presumption that undue influence was exerted over the decedent (the deceased person). This is a profound change from the current (pre-July, 2022) state of the law (which merely created a temporary presumption that was extremely easy to overcome), and it will make it much easier to contest the validity of a Will in Virginia. Text of the New Law In the 2022 session, the General Assembly adopted Senate …

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Jury Instructions on Undue Influence: Virginia Supreme Court Clarifies the Law

The Virginia Supreme Court recently handed down an important ruling that clarifies how juries should be instructed as to a presumption of undue influence in will contests. This opinion (Parson v. Miller, 822 S.E.2d 169) is essential reading for any estate litigator. Under Virginia law, a presumption of undue influence arises in certain circumstances relating to the execution of a will, pursuant to which the burden of proof shifts to the proponent of the will to rebut the presumption. Prior to Parson, there was some question as to the manner in which a jury should be instructed about the presumption …

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Raise It or Waive It?: The Virginia Supreme Court Weighs in on When Parties in Estate Litigation Must Raise (or Waive) Testamentary Capacity/Undue Influence Claims

Imagine your aging, widowed mother (“Mother”) has dementia and moves into assisted living.  You live about four hours away from Mother.  Your sibling (“Sibling”) lives about five (5) minutes away from Mother.  Sibling becomes increasingly involved in Mother’s affairs.  One day Sibling provides you with a copy of Mother’s recently changed will.  The new will leaves everything to Sibling.  Given Mother’s dementia, you are highly concerned because you don’t think Mother had the capacity to make the new will.  You ask Sibling about the new will.  Sibling says “It’s what Mother wants.” Later, Sibling files a lawsuit seeking to be …

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Undue Influence in Virginia: Does the Undue Influencer Have to Be a Beneficiary?

Without question, one of the most common estate disputes we see centers around allegations that one person unduly influenced another person to write (or re-write) a will or trust.  The typical situation involves an elderly person, no longer capable of living independently, who becomes increasingly reliant on another person for care and assistance. Under Virginia law, undue influence occurs when a testator’s free will is destroyed due to the influencer’s close relationship with the testator.  This theory is one of the most common methods used to attack a will or trust.  There are different ways to prove undue influence.  Undue …

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Confronting Caretaker Abuse & Misconduct

While most caretakers for sick and elderly people are honest, occasionally families and friends are forced to deal with a dishonest caretaker who steals a person’s money; pressures him to change a will, trust, or power of attorney; pressures him to sign a deed; isolates him from family members, etc. A recent article highlights this unfortunate fact: A Newport News [Virginia] woman will serve a fraction of a 30-year prison sentence for stealing $30,000 from a woman she cared for. Michele Lee Conley, 43, received three-year prison sentences for 10 counts of forgery and uttering after she tricked a 92-year-old …

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Waiting for Atticus Finch

Harper Lee Allegations Show the Importance of Proper Actions by an Agent Under a Power of Attorney The media and publishing world has been abuzz the past few weeks with news that Harper Lee – the author of the famed novel To Kill A Mockingbird – plans to publish her first novel in over 55 years. Described as a sequel, the new novel Go Set a Watchman is set to be released this coming summer. Recently, several media outlets have published reports from acquaintances of the 88-year old Ms. Lee implying that publication of the new novel is contrary to Ms. …

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