How A Confidential Relationship And Suspicious Activity Create Inference Of Undue Influence
With a long trial looming, the parties to the lawsuit over the $300 million estate of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark agreed to a settlement. Huguette Clark died in 2011 at age 104 after living a secluded life, the last 20 years of which she served as a voluntary self pay resident at a Manhattan hospital. She was also the sole heir of U.S. Sen. William A. Clark, who made a fortune in the mining and railroad industry, establishing Las Vegas, among other accomplishments. The will contest was brought by distant relatives of Ms. Clark who stood to inherit under her original will but were cut out of a second will made by Ms. Clark six weeks after the first. The relatives accused Ms. Clark’s attorney, her accountant, her doctor and primary nurse of undue influence. All the accused were named in the second will and stood to inherit millions beyond the valuable gifts they received during Ms. Clark’s lifetime. The terms of the settlement provide most of the estate to art and charitable institutions as well as to the relatives. The attorney, accountant and doctor will not inherit and the nurse agreed to return about five million dollars of what she had already received.
The law of undue influence in Oregon
Undue influence occurs when a person takes advantage of their power or control of another person by convincing them to transfer or gift property or money. A showing of undue influence is grounds to void an otherwise valid transaction, including a will or trust. In Oregon, the determination of undue influence will hinge on several factors, including:
- Confidential or fiduciary relationship: This is a relationship built on trust and creates a natural expectation in the other person that their confidant or fiduciary would not act in any way that would be detrimental to them.
- Suspicious circumstances: Secret withdrawals, forged documents and manipulative behavior are examples of such circumstances.
- Burden of proof: Generally, the person alleging undue influence will have the burden to present substantial proof that undue influence occurred.
If you suspect a family member may have been subjected to undue influence in creating their estate plan or managing their finances, contact the trusts and estates litigation attorneys at Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P.