As an Atlanta, Georgia wills, trusts and estate litigation lawyer, I am often asked by potential clients to determine if any undue influence has occurred with respect to a Georgia will, trust, power of attorney; or, other legal document. Our Atlanta, Georgia probate and estate lawyers have pending will contest cases in Atlanta, Georgia (Fulton County) Decatur, Georgia (DeKalb County), Marietta, Georgia (Cobb County), Lawrenceville, Georgia (Gwinnett County) and Macon, Georgia (Bibb County). As such, I have seen a common theme in the Georgia law being used to litigate these cases. While I am of the strong opinion there is typically no one factor which in and of itself can establish undue influence, there are a number of factors, which should absolutely be considered.
In determining and establishing undue influence in a Georgia probate court, or other Georgia state court, many of the relevant factors to consider in determining whether or not undue influence exists include the following:
• The existence of a confidential relationship between the parties;
• The reasonableness or unreasonableness of the testator’s disposition of his estate;
• The testator’s dealings and associations with the beneficiary;
• 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.
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.
There are many circumstances under which the undue influence may occur. Moreover, undue influence can take place in a variety of manners, modes of operation, and under many circumstances. Likewise, the parties who are exerting the undue influence can come from many surprising and unusual relationships or associations with the decedent.
As an Atlanta, Georgia wills, trusts and estate litigation attorney, I feel the variables should be evaluated collectively to determine the existence of undue influence. An experienced Georgia estate and probate litigation lawyer who is knowledgeable at assessing all the factors of a potential case should evaluate these variables.
The following are some examples of persons who may be the particularly susceptible to undue influence:
• Persons who are elderly, not competent, naive, gullible or easy to fool
• Persons who have family which live far away
• Persons taking any mind or behavior altering prescription medications, using alcohol or over the counter drugs
• Persons using illegal drugs
• Persons in criminal trouble, with economic or social problems
• Persons who are going through or have gone through major lifestyle changes such as moving, divorce, becoming disabled, etc.
• Persons who have friends or persons who tend to take advantage of their favorable monetary situation
• Persons who are not good with handling their economic affairs or otherwise not good with money
• Persons who are too trusting and not protective of themselves
It is important to understand, there is no standard list of the type of persons susceptible to undue influence. Likewise, there is no standard or norm for persons who engage in exerting undue influence. What is important is that if you suspect undue influence is occurring, is likely to occur, or you believe it has occurred in the disposition of a decedent’s estate or before the decedent’s death, then you should immediately contact an experienced Atlanta, Georgia, wills, trusts, and estate lawyer.
As a beneficiary or heir of an estate, you have options and legal rights under Georgia state law to have a will or other document declared null and void and set aside, recover assets and/or monies, damages, and possibly attorney’s fees. The Libby Law Firm represents heirs, and beneficiaries, in all Georgia wills, trusts, probate and estate disputes and litigation. We provide experienced legal representation through exceptional Atlanta Probate Attorneys. Our Firm has many decades of combined experience through its experienced Atlanta Probate attorneys and staff. We can assist you whether you are an heir or beneficiary. We also represent executors, administrators, and personal representatives in wills, trusts, and estate litigation matters.
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