Daughter Unduly Influenced Dad’s Will – Loses Inheritance
Here, the lawsuits (10 in all) began with a struggle among family members concerning the administration of their mother’s estate and their father’s estate plan. In 2001, the trial court ordered the children to cease interfering with the disposition of their parents’ property. Any party that violated the court’s order would forfeit their right to receive any property under their father’s will.
It was common knowledge that the father was unable to stand up to a daughter. When she presented him with a “side agreement” which compensated her in the amount of $200,000 for “dismissal of lawsuits,” he signed. The daughter then came up with the idea of executing a real estate contract in favor of her children that would give her total ownership of the farmland. She attempted to have the attorney who drafted her father’s will execute the contract. Knowing the family tension, he adamantly refused. Nonetheless, the daughter was able to execute the contract on her own. None of her siblings were aware of her actions, until the contract was signed. They filed suit, claiming that she had exerted an undue influence over their father.
At trial, the court set aside the real estate contract based upon undue influence by the daughter, stemming from a confidential relationship. The court determined that she was able to exert a dominant influence over her father such that he was prevented from acting willingly, understandingly, or even intelligently. Once a confidential relationship is found, the burden is on the alleged influencer to rebut the allegations. The daughter was not able to do so. The evidence showed that her father rarely spoke in her presence and that she engaged in self-dealing on many occasions. In addition, the sales price under the real estate contract did not represent the fair market value of the property and was chosen merely to benefit her family.
The appellate court affirmed. The remaining siblings had proven through sufficient evidence that their sister acted inappropriately and with undue influence over their father. In addition, the appellate court ordered the daughter to pay attorney’s fees because the daughter “flagrantly used her influence to gain advantage” over her father. In re Estate of Nelson, No. 9-889/07-0422, 2010 Iowa App. LEXIS 100 (Iowa Ct. App., Feb. 10, 2010).
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