Lessons Learned from In re the Purported Will of Moore

An appellate court recently decided the In re the Purported Will of Moore case, which involved an appeal from an order that granted summary judgment and denied relief for a judgment involving a caveat to the will of a deceased person. 

The Facts Behind the Case

A man created a will at the end of 2018 appointing his sister as executor. The will passed on both the man’s real and personal property to his sister after the man’s sister passed away. The man ultimately passed away in 2019. The deceased man’s estate began probate in 2019 in the superior court.  The man’s daughter filed a caveat to the will in the summer of 2019 claiming that she is the deceased man’s only biological child and that the deceased man’s will is not valid because it lacked appropriate witnesses and was written as the result of undue influence

In 2020, the daughter filed a motion for summary judgment claiming because the sister had not responded, all admissions requests were admitted, which included admissions that the daughter was the only biological daughter of the man. In opposition to this motion, the sister submitted an affidavit denying the alleged daughter’s relationship with the man. The daughter ultimately moved for relief from judgment, but her motion was denied. The alleged daughter then filed for an appeal.

The alleged daughter’s appeal argued that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the proceedings because the caveator lacked standing. Because the caveator held no legal interest in the estate, the alleged daughter argued the sister lacked standing. Given that standing is required for subject matter jurisdiction, the trial court did not have jurisdiction over the proceedings.  As a result, the appellate court ultimately vacated orders from the trial court and remanded the case for dismissal of the will’s caveat. 

Ways to Avoid Claims of Undue Influence

All types of people are susceptible to undue influence. As a result, you must take some important steps to guard yourself against claims that your estate plan is the result of undue influence. Some of the best steps that you can take to protect yourself from undue influence include: 

  • Undue influence often arises when parties are not entirely clear about estate planning. Your loved ones will become suspicious of undue influence if they are not certain what is happening with your health and finances. As a result, by being transparent and sharing financial documents as well as medical details with your loved ones, you can greatly reduce the risk of undue influence claims. 
  • A written agreement with your loved ones can also help to reduce claims of undue influence. 
  • Make sure to keep receipts and adequately document finances to avoid undue influence claims. To avoid these claims, writing checks or using a debit card is preferable to using cash to pay for things. 
  • Avoid creating joint bank accounts with the party to whom you ultimately pass on your assets to greatly reduce the risk of undue influence claims.
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