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Dallas Attorneys for Contesting a Will Because of Undue Influence

If you believe your loved one was pressured into decisions they made regarding their will, contact Staubus and Randall right away. You may have the right to file an undue influence lawsuit that would challenge the validity of the will.

will contest undue influenceUndue influence occurs when someone unethically pressures a testator (the person who is making the will) regarding the details of their will. Usually, an influencer is someone who has close contact with the testator, such as a family member or staff member of an elderly care facility, and is able to take advantage of the testator due to their old age and their dependence on them as a caregiver.

If you have reason to think that undue influence played a role in the creation of your loved one’s will, you need to challenge its validity to ensure that your loved one’s true intentions are fulfilled. When you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the last thing you want to deal with is a complicated legal process. Allow us to ease your burden by handling your case and advocating for your and your deceased loved one’s rights. With over 100 years of combined experience in estate law, you will know you are in good hands when you hire the Dallas estate litigation lawyers if Staubus and Randall. Call us at 214-691-3411 or contact us online today to schedule your free consultation.

What Is Undue Influence?

Undue influence can be exercised by family members, caregivers, or anyone else in close contact with a testator. For example, let’s say your mother has granted her antique collection to you in her will. When your brother finds out, he tries to convince her to change her will and give it to him instead, since his new wife is an avid antique collector. He even threatens to cut off contact with his mother unless she makes the change. This is undue influence and, if your mother does change her will, and the antique collection is granted to your brother, this would provide grounds for contesting the will.

How Do You Prove Undue Influence?

Under Texas law, to contest a will on the grounds of undue influence, you must be able to prove all three of the following elements:

  1. The influence existed and was exercised
  2. The influence overpowered the testator’s mind in relation to their will
  3. The influence caused the testator to make decisions or changes to their will that they would not have otherwise made

dallas will contest undue influenceConsidered together, these three elements can prove that another person (the influencer) took advantage of their relationship with your loved one to influence them to change or make decisions about their will to benefit them, the influencer.

As the person contesting the will, you are responsible for proving undue influence. This can be very difficult to do since it’s impossible to know what your deceased loved one was thinking when they made their will. However, if you have reason to believe that undue influence was used, an experienced Texas estate litigation attorney can help you gather evidence and present a strong case. The court will use the evidence provided to consider the following factors:

  • The relationship between the testator and the influencer
  • The relationship between the testator and other beneficiaries
  • The health and frailty of the testator, including physical or mental capacity, at the time the will was created or the change was made
  • The extent of dependency of the testator on the influencer
  • The character and conduct of those who benefit from the will

To be successful in proving undue influence and contesting a will, these elements, when considered together, must show that the influencer used their position of influence to overpower the free will of the testator. The resulting will document would therefore likely reflect the influencer’s wishes, rather than the testator’s.

If the court decides that undue influence truly was present, the transaction in question would be invalidated. In our example, that would mean the granting of the antique collection in the will to your brother would be invalid. Depending on the specifics of the case, this could result in that transaction in the will being modified back to the original intent or it could be invalidated entirely.

Who Is Eligible to Contest a Will in Texas?

Only interested persons are eligible to contest a will in Texas. Under Texas statute 22.018, this includes:

  • A spouse, heir, devisee, creditor, or someone else who has a right to or claim against the administration of the deceased’s estate
  • Any person interested in an incapacitated person’s welfare, including any minor children

How Long Do You Have to Contest a Will?

how long do you have to contest willIf you wish to contest a will on the grounds of undue influence in Texas, you have only two years to do so. This timeframe, called the statute of limitations, requires that you must file a lawsuit within two years from the date when the will is entered into probate.

If your loved one has passed away recently and the probate process has not begun, it would be in your best interest to file the lawsuit as soon as possible. Probate is the legal process for reviewing and validating a will. Filing a lawsuit before a judge has deemed that the will is valid could assist the legal process.

Why Choose Staubus and Randall?

Staubus and Randall has been successfully representing clients in probate, guardianship, trust, and estate planning matters since 1992. Our dedicated attorneys will provide you with the personalized service, knowledge, and skills you can trust to handle your undue influence case. With decades of experience in probate court, our firm has an unmatched reputation as an aggressive probate trial firm with a track record of success in complex cases. We have achieved an AV rating, which is the highest legal rating available from one of the most well-known and respected law firm rating services, Martindale-Hubbell.

Contact Staubus and Randall Today

A complicated legal battle is not a happy thought for most people, particularly when they’re grieving the loss of a loved one. Allow us to use our knowledge and experience to handle your case with care and compassion and ease some of the burden you are facing. The Dallas will contest attorneys of Staubus and Randall are available to discuss your case in a free consultation. Call us at 214-691-3411 or contact us online today.

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Frequent Asked Questions

Estate planning is the arrangement of transferring a person’s assets and property after their death. The estate plan you create may consist of cars, homes, life insurance, assets, real estate, jewelry, and other types of personal property. When you create an estate plan, you must sign it in front of a notary public.

Even if you don’t have many assets, it’s still a good idea to create an estate plan, so that loved ones won’t argue over who gets what when you pass away. Your estate plan will ensure everything you own goes to specified parties and doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Typically, those with extensive or complex assets will hire an estate planning lawyer to help draft their will. Many use a will to divide personal property, such as a home, among their family members. When you’re preparing your will, you need to make sure you meet specific legal requirements. Having a witness present when you’re signing the documents is crucial.

Of course, it’s possible to draft a will on your own, especially if you don’t have significant assets to leave behind. However, hiring an estate planning lawyer can ensure that your documents comply with current law, and that everything gets divided among your family the way you want, so there’s no confusion.

A power of attorney is a legal document giving power to one person (an agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. When you create a power of attorney, you can designate a specific person and decide how much authority they will have.

An attorney-in-fact would maintain records of all decisions made on your behalf. Some decisions could include recommending a guardian for dependents or minor children and financial decisions. They could also make decisions about healthcare.

If you allow your power of attorney the authority to stop, give, or withhold medical treatment, you can leave instructions on which services you want and don’t want, when to stop life-saving measures, and when to cease specific treatments.

It’s devastating to lose a loved one, and the last thing anyone wants to do is handle their affairs. However, you must ensure property and assets go to the right people, and everyone follows their final wishes.

The first thing you should do when your loved one passes away is to request a copy of a legal pronouncement of death. You should also notify close friends and family of their death. If necessary, arrange for the supervision of dependents or minor children. You’ll also be able to find instructions on how to move forward with their plans from their will or trust.

A trust is a document that places your assets into a trust fund to transfer to a beneficiary upon your death. Most people will create a trust to speed up the process of settling their estate. You can also protect your assets, reduce taxes, and prevent probate.

With a trust, you’re not only able to control who your assets go to but also how the money gets disbursed. This is especially beneficial if the person you’re leaving money to doesn’t know how to save and spend properly. You can create a payment schedule with a specified amount paid to them on a weekly or monthly basis, rather than as a lump sum.

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What Our Clients Say

"I recently had the occasion to hire Mr. Staubus for a hotly contested Guardianship matter. Mr. Staubus brought a rare combination of effectiveness, reasonableness and understanding of the human element involved. Mr. Staubus handled all things in a calm, highly competent, effective and reasonable way. It could not have been as easy as he made it seem. He's a credit to the Bar."

Jody

"Before retaining the guidance of the Staubus & Randall firm, I was at my wit's end trying to close an uncle's estate as a co-executor. In addition to dealing with difficult heirs, I had other pressing business issues coming up immediately on estate land in the middle of the Eagleford Shale including dealings with pipeline, seismic, oil & gas, and construction companies. The local bank also refused to give me access to information relating to the estate. This quickly became the most stressful and desperate time in my life...and then I found Joseph Legere who truly became my guardian angel. He was able to get all issues resolved efficiently and the estate fully closed. His professionalism, immense legal knowledge on a wide variety of topics, and amazing communication skills took the burdens off of me and quickly got closure. I am forever indebted to this firm for giving me my life back."

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"Without exception, the legal service, professional attitude, prompt communication of your firm and your legal knowledge is second to none. I only wish I had an attorney here in Boston that could hold a candle to your experience and expertise. Working with you has been a pleasure, but even more, has made me believe that there are knowledgeable attorneys that do care about doing a good job. Thank you Keith! You may not truly understand how much of an impact you are having on peoples lives, but for me, you have helped change my life. As I begin making my dreams come true I can't help but remember none of this would be possible without you."

Joann

"Keith Staubus and Julie Blankenship and their team represented me in a jury trial in the probate court where the ownership of the business which I had worked hard to build was at stake. They successfully fought to preserve my business and my professional reputation, working masterfully to gain the support of the jury. I would not hesitate to hire them again in any bet-the-company litigation.”

Karen

"I have required legal representation twice in my life in two separate will contests. Both times I sought assistance from Keith Staubus and Staubus/Randall. Their service, approach, and determination to obtain results exceeded the other attorneys in each case. Mr. Staubus has always come across as genuine while being direct. He gets the process done in a timely manner with results. I will certainly use him again when and if any new challenges arise.”

David

"After my husband's death, I was devastated by having to defend against a vicious dispute over my husband's estate. Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus made me feel very comfortable in this distressing situation. They were very tough and did an excellent job for me in obtaining a summary judgment in my favor without a full jury trial. I was glad to have them and Diane Walker in my corner to help me achieve an excellent result - I won! If I ever had to go back to probate court, I would hire them again.” - (will and trust construction case)

Flo

"If you need intervention for someone you love but don't know where to turn or who to turn to, Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus helped me through the most difficult and stressful time in my life with a much loved family member. I now believe that good will triumph over evil. They fought for what was right, and good prevailed." (contested guardianship and will contest)

Janet

"As a professional money manager, I have used Ryan Randall's estate planning services both personally and for my clients. Ryan has exhibited three critical attributes in his work with me: (1) high intellectual capacity, (2) exceptional thoroughness, and (3) a total commitment to integrity. In today's litigious world, it can be quite costly not to "get things done right.” An added bonus to us was that we found one of the nicest people we could imagine.”

John

"I was represented by Keith Staubus as an income beneficiary in a lawsuit with the trustee of a family trust. Utilizing the expertise of a forensic accountant and his own trust expertise, Keith was able to negotiate a judicial modification of the trust providing for the buyout of my income interest for a substantial lump sum payment out of the trust, resulting in a win-win situation for all of the parties. I highly recommend Staubus/Randall for any trust disputes and trust modification actions."

Kathy

"I have been a wealth management specialist and retirement plan consultant with the Dallas/Fort Worth financial community for over 20 years. I have engaged Ryan Randall to work with a number of my best clients over the years, including business owners, professionals and families. My clients always appreciate Ryan’s straightforward approach to estate planning, asset protection planning and business succession planning. He makes even the most sophisticated estate planning strategies understandable."

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What planning we can sue for?

When a loved one dies, and the execution of their estate plan begins, many disputes can arise among family members. Despite the decedent's creation of a good estate plan, problems can occur if a power of attorney doesn’t perform their duties or someone’s unhappy with the division and distribution of assets.

The most common disputes estate lawyers see include:

Bad fiduciary selection

A majority of disputes arise when the power of attorney, executor, or trustee doesn’t correctly perform their duties when their loved one dies. That failure is called a breach of fiduciary duty. Common breaches include:

  • Failure to file tax returns
  • Using assets for personal benefit
  • Failure to provide tax and accounting information to beneficiaries
  • Dividing and distributing assets improperly

To avoid these issues, you should ensure your loved one chooses the right fiduciary during the process of planning their estate. Careful selection can ensure there’s no breach of duty, and they act in the deceased’s best interest.

Will or Trust Contest

When someone contests a trust or will, it’s either because they don’t think it’s legally valid or believe someone influenced the creator into making decisions they didn’t want to make.

To be legal, the creator of the will must sign under specific circumstances and in a particular manner. In Texas, the person must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age;
  • Be of sound mind, meaning they’re able to make decisions and understand the consequences of a will;
  • Sign the will themselves;
  • Signature of at least two witnesses; and
  • List at least one beneficiary.

Improper execution of a will is less common than undue influence. Many will argue that the creator of the trust or will made their decisions because of another party. The person accused of undue influence could be a friend, caregiver, professional advisor, or family member.

Distribution of property

Sometimes conflicts will arise when the creator of a will or trust intends to leave someone their property but dies before they can change their estate plan to reflect that decision. Other instances create conflicts when beneficiaries believe the distribution of property is unfair or inequitable.

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How should I handle estate law disputes?

If you come across the disputes listed above or any other types of disputes, there are options for resolving them. The remedy you choose will depend on the particular conflict and the people involved.

  • Remove the executor: If there’s a problem with the executor of the estate, you might need to replace or remove them. Finding a replacement can be difficult, especially finding one that all parties are happy with. However, it’s the best decision to ensure everyone is satisfied with how the estate gets handled. The best choice would be a neutral third party who doesn’t hold any biases.
  • Litigation: To litigate a dispute, you must be an inheritor and have sufficient grounds for pursuing a lawsuit. Most people will litigate if they believe there was an improper distribution of the property or suffered a financial loss because someone mismanaged the estate.
  • Mediation: This is the best option for individuals who want to settle the issues amicably, timely, and inexpensively. Mediations usually bring about quick results and cost less than litigation. You also have complete control over the outcome because there isn’t a judge or jury involved.

The Firm

The attorneys at Staubus and Randall have over 100 years of combined experience in estate planning, probate, and litigation. We have the knowledge and skills to tackle complex legal issues, such as guardianships, will contests, fiduciary litigation, and trust litigation. We can also handle routine matters, such as estate administration, probating wills, heirship determinations, and other probate court matters.

Staubus and Randall received a preeminent AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating possible from a peer-rated legal service. This rating recognizes our hard work, dedication, and the case results we’re able to achieve.

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