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Questions over laws regarding undue influence

In the administration of an estate in Minnesota, myriad factors may come into play. Included are not only the disposition of property, but also issues such as a potential will contest based on allegations of undue influence. Currently, the burden of proving undue influence is on those making the allegation, but there are some who wish to change this aspect of the law.

First, a little bit of background is necessary. After a will is entered into probate, it may become clear that the will does not reflect the true desires of the person who has passed away, who is called the testator. Instead, it may be alleged by beneficiaries of the will or by others that the will is the product of undue influence. That is, someone took advantage of his or her power over the testator.

However, proving undue influence can be tricky, not least because the burden of doing so is on the person or people making the claim. Some wish to change this, though, by reworking the law such that there is a presumption of undue influence in the transfer of property under a will.

This may or may not be a good idea. While it would certainly make it easier to prove undue influence, it could also lead to a lot more will contests in Minnesota and elsewhere. Furthermore, it's not even certain that such a change is needed, as there are already a number of so-called triggers for a presumption of undue influence. In the meantime, those alleging undue influence or fighting back against such an allegation should consider seeking out experienced legal counsel. A deep and thorough knowledge of probate and estate administration law may well be the key securing an equitable result.

Source: Lawyers Weekly, "The perilous presumption of undue influence," Adam Parachin, Nov. 30, 2011

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