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How does California law define undue influence in trust litigation cases in Sacramento?

Trust Litigation

What is “Undue Influence” and How Can It Affect My Trust Litigation Case?

When a family member dies or becomes incapacitated, many times, a trust that they previously set up may take effect, and its mandates must be carried out. However, the implementation of a trust doesn’t always go smoothly; family members, relatives, and even friends may have serious legal issues with the trust’s directives,

Therefore, trust litigation can be instigated in Sacramento (and most of California) for various reasons. Accusations and actual acts of “Undue influence” are widespread in these cases, but how does the California court identify or prove that it was a viable influence?

Your skilled California probate lawyer is familiar with this issue and will explain that cases of undue influence usually involve older family members and relatives who now lack mental capacity.

What commonly occurs is that an older family member suffering from mental decline is significantly pressured into signing their assets over to another family member, relative, or friend who is acting as a financial abuser.

Also, you might feel that undue influence can only occur if the victim has dementia or lacks mental capacity due to other reasons, but unfortunately, that is not the case.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s many times are the underlying factors for undue influence; other criteria can be involved.

Often, an older or ill relative can’t resist the pressure from relatives or family, so they give in to demands that typically conflict with their actual wishes.

So, simply put, the victim does not have to have dementia, senility, or Alzheimer’s to be under undue influence and have the case brought before the courts.

Also, what you must know is that in California, a presumption of undue influence may exist if the victim has mental weakness or vigor or may lack the fortitude to fight back against a more assertive person that they may depend on.

The courts may find that if the victim, who is also the trust’s grantor, depends on someone and enters into an agreement with that person, it could be presumed that they were a victim of undue influence. If these accusations come up, your skilled, empathetic Sacramento probate lawyer will fight to prove undue influence and fully protect the rights of the victim and their family.

What Can My Probate Lawyer Use To Show That Undue Influence Was Used?

In California, undue influence is defined as “excessive persuasion that causes a person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming their free will; this almost always results in inequity.

However, to prove undue influence in California, there must be at least four vital components present they are;

  • The targeted person or victim’s vulnerability – All victims of undue influence are almost always vulnerable in some manner that allows them to be susceptible to undue influence. These vulnerabilities could include illness, disability, education, emotional distress, age, etc.
  • The influencer’s authority over the victim – In these cases, the influencer is commonly a close individual with a position of power over the victim, such as a care provider, a family member, a legal professional, a spiritual advisor, and more.
  • The suspicious actions of the influencer – Using their influence, they use objectionable and subversive tactics to get what they want from the older person or victim. Tactics such as controlling the victim’s life, sleep, access to information, intimidation, and worse.
  • The negative inequity is the result – By using undue influence, the influencer promotes and ends up with an unequal situation. Evidence of this inequity can include negative financial consequences, changes in the victim’s conduct, inappropriate changes that occur quickly, and more.

If undue influence is even suspected, you’re skilled, experienced, thorough probate lawyer will look for these signs and investigate what’s needed to prove them

How Can I Protect Myself, or My Loved Ones From Undue Influence?

There are never foolproof ways to protect yourself (as you could become disabled) or your loved ones from this tragic and despicable behavior, but there are steps you can take now that will help significantly.

A few of the preventive measures are;

  • Plan early – Try to draft a professional and comprehensive estate plan while you are mentally competent so that changes later on cannot be made hastily.
  • Get the professional legal guidance you need – Seeking help from a knowledgeable, thorough, and reputable probate lawyer will help ensure that your wishes are accurately, clearly drafted, and fully protected against challenges.
  • Enlist the help of witnesses and video recordings – Have witnesses present during the process of forming your estate plan and the documents needed. This will provide complete evidence of your mental clarity and voluntary and explicit decisions per your wishes.

These are only a few ways to protect yourself or a loved one from falling victim to undue influence, and there are more. The wise move is to consult with a local Sacramento probate and elder abuse lawyer now and not wait until it’s too late.

Is It Difficult To Prove Undue Influence In a California Court?

It can be challenging to prove undue influence depending on your unique situation and circumstances. Still, there are basic steps that your compassionate and well-versed probate lawyer will take.

For example, when undue influence must be proven to a judge, it is always helpful to fully exhibit the vulnerability of the victim and demonstrate their weakened mental state. This process usually includes using a medical professional or psychiatrist’s expert testimony to prove that the victim was not “of a sound mind” when they made the decisions.

Additionally, your lawyer will demonstrate the influencer’s authority over the victim, providing proof of the abuser’s authoritative relationship, special access, and dominance over the victim. If the abuser did have private access to the victim and consistently had time and motive to do so, then this could prove an authoritative relationship and potential for abuse.

My Loved One Or I May Have Been Victimized By Undue Influence; What Should I Do?

First, obtain the services of a probate litigation law team with compassion and experience to understand the pain that undue influence may cause. Your law team will know how to proceed and fight aggressively to obtain the justice you or your loved one deserves.

The probate litigation and elder abuse lawyers at the Yonano Law Offices, P.C., are skilled and thorough. They have a long and winning history of litigating undue influence cases by seeking justice for you and holding the abusers accountable for their actions.

Call them today at (916) 894-8790, and they will always do what’s in your best interests and ensure you don’t have to go through this harrowing experience alone.

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