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We encourage inquirers to consider a variety of opinions, negative and positive, so that inquirers can make independent and informed judgments pertinent to their particular concerns. Abstract This article outlines the history of undue influence and the law, the definitions of undue influence, judicial considerations in deciding undue influence cases, and the types of cases in which document examiners may be called upon to testify.
Undue influence cases most commonly appear in contract or probate law. Undue influence cases may occur in relationships based upon trust and confidence, family members or friends, or within the context of totalistic groups.
In each of these areas, the courts, in deciding actual cases, and the legislature, in enacting specific statutes, have been concerned with the state of mind of the individual assenting to a contract or executing a will.
If a contract is obtained by undue influence, the document is invalid; as contract law theory sees it, no contract has been formed. Within the conceptual framework of contract law, no contract can be formed unless there has been a "meeting of the minds" of independent, bargaining individuals.
If a contract is obtained through the use of undue influence, there has never been an actual meeting of the minds of two bargaining parties. If a will is obtained by undue influence, the courts require a showing that the will of the testator, the maker of the will, is subjugated to the will of another.
Such subjugation is shown through acts or conduct that overcome the free agency of the testator. It must be proven that the testator disposed of his or her property in a manner contrary to and different from the disposition that would have occurred had there been no such undue influence.
Undue Influence and Contract Law The concept of undue influence developed in the English courts as a means of policing unfair agreements induced by improper means of persuasion. The test for undue influence became the presence or absence of free agency, that is, whether the individual will had been overpowered.
The net result was that the inequality that the courts should guard against was pressure that compelled the person to act against his or her own desires.
The courts came then to regulate the pressures that can be exerted on the physically, mentally, or emotionally disadvantaged, as Dawson indicates in summation of the development of this doctrine, with the use of donative gifts as a specific example.
Transactions must be judged not only in terms of motive but in terms of their effects. The aim is by no means to eliminate but to safeguard the powers of donation of the aged, the timid, the physically or mentally weak.
In a case decided inby Chancellor Francis Bacon, a woman of the quaint name of Mrs.
Death was found to have used undue influence to obtain a deed to land and a will leaving her personal property of considerable value, from a Mr. As Chancellor Bacon writes: Death] to give his house here in London and to come to sojourn with her at her house in the country.
Death], and that she having him there did so work upon his simplicity and weakness and by her dalliance and pretence of love unto him and of intention after the death of her then husband to marry him, and by sundry adulterous courses with him and by sorcery and by drawing of his affections from.
Death so worked "upon [the] simplicity and weakness" of the year-old Lydiatt, "by her dalliance and pretence of love.
Legal Reasoning To adequately understand what the concept of undue influence has come to mean in a contemporary legal setting, one must first look to the statutory definition of the term. Second, one looks to actual cases where undue influence is central to the decision to determine in what context the issue has arisen and how judges interpreted the term in light of the facts of a specific case.
The history of legal decisions on the issue of undue influence becomes a series of legal precedents that are applied by analogy to any new or novel set of facts. Undue Influence in Relationships Based on Trust and Confidence Corresponding to the first subsection of Civil Codethe courts traditionally require two elements to be proven in a case of undue influence involving a contract: The concept of special relationship in 1 of the Civil Code.
The term "special relationship" is a complex concept in the law. The basic idea is a relationship between parties based on trust and confidence where the weaker party is justified in assuming that the stronger will not act in a manner inconsistent with his welfare.
Examples of such statutorily recognized fiduciaries are trustees, guardians, executors, administrators, and attorneys. Because professionals, such as trustees or attorneys, are recognized as having fiduciary responsibilities, the courts will scrutinize their actions intensely.
In general, the fiduciary has the obligation or burden of proving that he or she has adequately discharged the duties attendant on this position. Undue influence in a relationship based on trust and confidence. Cases differ as to the nature or degree of the unfair persuasion necessary to be called undue influence.
One factor the courts will consider is an obvious imbalance of power or inequitable unfairness in the results of the bargain to the weaker party. Other factors considered in various cases are 1 lack of independent advice, 2 special susceptibility of the weaker party to the importuning of the stronger, and 3 lack of time to reflect and consider the consequences of all actions.
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