Probate and trust litigators in Florida deal with allegations of undue influence in the creation of a will or trust more than any other issue. Florida law makes use of a series of presumptions in controlling the .
In Estate of Madrigal (3rd DCA 2009), the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s revocation of a will as a result of undue influence, basing its holding on the presumptions that apply in undue influence cases:
[W]here the proponent of a will satisfies, prima facie, the will is facially proper, and the contestant thereafter satisfies, prima facie, a presumption of undue influence in the making of the will, the proponent of the will has the burden of proving the will was not the product of undue influence. That burden must be met by a preponderance of the evidence as determined by the trier of fact.
The presumption of undue influence arises under Florida law where “a substantial beneficiary under a will occupies a confidential relationship with the testator and is active in procuring the contested will.” In Estate of Carpenter, 253 So.2d 697 (Fla. 1971).
Once the trial court determines that a beneficiary was active in the procurement of a will and had a close, trusting relationship with the testator, that beneficiary bears the burden of proof to show that the will was not the product of undue influence.