Montague, Pittman & Varnado, P.A.

MPV Law Blog

VALIDITY OF WILLS OR DEEDS MAY BE CHALLENGED DUE TO POSSIBLE UNDUE INFLUENCE

Monday, May 5, 2014

When a person signs a Last Will and Testament in Mississippi they are presumed to understand the effects of signing such a document, and they are also presumed to be acting of their own free will and not being influenced by another person in making the Will.  These presumptions can be overcome by evidence to the contrary.  The validity of a Will may be challenged if the persons challenging the Will can prove that the person signing the Will (called the “Testator”) lacked the mental capacity to understand the significance of the document he or she was signing.  Proof of lack of mental capacity can be difficult in Mississippi because our courts have held that a person can sign a valid Will in a “lucid interval” even though they are usually not capable of understanding the significance of a Will.

Undue influence in the making of a Will can also invalidate a Will.  The party challenging the Will must prove that the Testator was influenced in making the Will by a person who exerted such financial or psychological control over the Testator so that the Testator was not acting on their own free will.  Typically this assertion involves a situation in which an older person was dependent on someone else to the point that independent free will could not be exercised when the other party exerted duress to compel the Testator to favor that party in the Will.

The Mississippi Court of Appeals recently decided a case which applied the legal principal of undue influence to signing of a Deed.  Conveyances of property can also be set aside if the court finds that the person signing a Deed did not do so of their own free will but was coerced into doing so by the person who obtained the title to the property in the Deed.

The attorneys at Montague, Pittman & Varnado are experienced and skilled in preparing Wills and Deeds and have represented parties in cases where undue influence or lack of capacity were alleged.

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