Oklahoma probate law defines undue influence as that which compels the testator to do that which is against his will, from fear, the desire of peace, or some feeling which he is unable to resist. The influence must be undue, in order to vitiate the will, because influences of one kind or another surround every rational being, and operate necessarily in determining one’s course of conduct under every relation of life. Within due and reasonable limits such influence affords no ground of legal objection.
Undue influence necessary to set aside a will must be a present restraint, fraud or undue influence, operating upon the testator’s mind in the very act of making the will, and affecting its execution or the disposition it makes, as the undue influence must dominate testator at the time of making the will and contemporaneous threats have this effect.
Influence based on affection for members of a family is not undue influence, as such influence is natural and proper and in a different class from that which a stranger may obtain.
Undue influence, such as will invalidate a will, must be something which destroys the free agency of the testator at the time when the instrument is made, and which, in effect, substitutes the will of another for that of the testator. It is not sufficient that the testator was influenced by the beneficiaries in the ordinary affairs of life, or that he was surrounded by them and in confidential relations with them at the time of its execution. Mere general influence, not brought to bear on the testamentary act, is not undue influence; but in order to constitute undue influence, it must be used directly to procure the will, and must amount to coercion destroying the free agency of the testator. Mere suspicion that undue influence was brought to bear is not sufficient to justify the setting aside of the will.
Based on the above summary of how an Oklahoma probate court will consider evidence of undue influence, it requires good proof. I once had a case where we were able to prove undue influence. An attorney-in-fact sequestered the will maker in her home. Then locked the relatives out. And had the will signed under those circumstances. The court set the will aside for undue influence.
Brent Coldiron is a practicing attorney will offices in Edmond/Oklahoma City and Midwest City. Give him a call if you have questions. His number is (405) 478-5655 or 737-2244.