The Atlanta, Georgia, will litigation lawyers of The Libby Law Firm have seen an increase in will contest lawsuits. One of the areas we have seen an increase is the assertion of undue influence. Often this occurs when one sibling tries to exploit a family member with diminished mental or physical capacity in order to obtain a more favorable distribution under the will than another. One sibling’s close relationship to a parent often presents an opportunity for deception and manipulation to occur. If the will is made with unwarranted influence, the will’s validity may be challenged.
The Georgia Supreme Court case, Morrison v. Morrison, 282 Ga. 866 (2008) provides some guidance regarding what constitutes undue influence. In Morrison v. Morrison, one sibling sued another claiming that he used undue influence over his father to convince him to select a particular attorney and then participated with that attorney to create a more favorable will. In this case, the Georgia Supreme Court determined that no undue influence existed because the father was not of “weak mentality” when the will was executed nor did the one sibling occupy a “dominant position” with regard to his father. In fact, the court said, “that the father remained strong-willed and stubborn, not feeble or easily confused, and that he liked to be in charge. ” Morrison, 282 Ga. 868.
Under Georgia Law, a transaction is recognized to be the result of undue influence when the parties are in a confidential relationship with each other and one party has a superior mental capability than the party who is the victim of the undue influence.
To the contrary, The Georgia Supreme Court found undue influence existed in a noteworthy case, Bailey v. Edmundson, 280 Ga. 528 (2006). Baily v. Edmundson is an especially case because it provides a list of factors to consider in determining undue influence, including:
• Whether the parties had a confidential relationship;
• The reasonableness of the testator’s disposition of his estate;
• The testator’s habits, motives, or feelings, and his physical and mental strengths or weaknesses;
• The testator’s family, social, and business relations;
• The manner and conduct of the testator; and
• Any other fact or circumstance that shows the exercise of undue influence on the mind and will of a testator, including evidence as to the bad character of the person(s) exerting the influence.
Although undue influence may occur in many different circumstances, parents may be particularly susceptible to undue influence from one of their own children.
If you suspect undue influence is occurring, or likely to occur, then you should immediately contact an experienced Atlanta, Georgia, estate litigation lawyer. Our Firm has significant experience handling will contest cases involving siblings. Should you have any questions or desire any assistance, our Firm welcomes the opportunity to be of service to you. Please feel free to call our Firm (404) 467-8611 to discuss your options. You can also send us a message through our confidential Web Site form. The Libby Law Firm is conveniently located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, GA near the intersection of Piedmont and Roswell Roads.