Wills & Beneficiaries

Don't Write Someone's Will If You Are a Benefeciary

Mr. Robert’s will was admitted to probate. Mrs. Robert was the surviving spouse – and the step-mother of the children who protested the will because they claimed she exerted “undue influence” upon their father. To support this argument, the children claimed that the will was contrary to Mr. Robert’s previously expressed  statements and against the pre-nuptial agreement the two executed before their marriage.

The appellate Court examined what “undue influence” meant in the law. The Court, in what looks to be judicial poetry, stated:

“If a wife by her industry and virtue, and by the assistance which she has rendered her husband, has gained such an ascendancy over the mind of her husband; if she has by her faithfulness and good qualities secured his respect and esteem, so that her wish is a law to him, such influence, though it result in procuring a will in her favor to the total exclusion of all the relatives of the husband, would not amount to undue influence. “

The Court then said that, in order to have undue influence, a court must find a relationship which would cause a reasonably prudent person to have confidence in another; a “confidential relationship”.  Secondly, the Court must find that the stronger person in the relationship assisted in preparing the weaker person’s will.

The Court then examined the facts.  Several people testified that Mr. Robert was organized and in charge at all times of the business he was conducting. He spoke highly of his wife and children and he had a happy marriage. From this, the Court decided that there was no undue influence on Mr. Robert by his wife.   

The law allowed Mr. Robert to prepare and execute his own will. His wife assisted hime at that time. Mr. Robert believed that his wife and his children had a happy relationship with one another. However, after his death, there was a contested probate action which was appealed. While you can prepare your own will under Oklahoma law, it’s better to involve an attorney in order to avoid unexpected outcomes like this. 

Legal Strategy