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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Public to hear undue influence disagreement over inheritance

Like most court cases in Minnesota, probate proceedings, including legal disagreements over inheritances, are usually open to the public. Although special circumstances may in some cases result in probate disputes being heard in private, at lot of times it may in fact be in the best interest of family and friends to have probate disputes heard openly in Minnesota's courtrooms.

One good example of this is those cases in which a person is accused of exercising undue influence over another so as to get the latter person to modify his or her will. In another state recently, a probate court held that a case with allegations of undue influence must be heard in open court.

The case revolves around the will of a 93-year-old woman who had a substantial estate. In 2012, an attorney re-drafted the woman's estate planning documents in which the woman named a police officer the main beneficiary of her fortune.

Other people with interests in the woman's estate dispute the validity of this change. They claim that the officer used his position of authority to unduly influence the woman to give him a large portion of her estate. Some of the woman's friends and relatives say that the woman's 2009 estate planning documents reflect her true intent. The police officer denies the allegations.

People can exercise "undue influence" over a person making estate plans in various ways. A person need not lie or do anything particularly outrageous in order to be accused of undue influence. If a person uses a relationship in such a way as to take advantage of an elderly person or any other person making a will in order to get a better inheritance, that will may be set aside.

Source: Seacoast online, "Judge: Officer's inheritance dispute must be heard in public," Elizabeth Dinan, Oct. 31, 2013

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