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It is the settled law of this state that illicit relationship is not sufficient per se to warrant a conclusion of undue influence. And no presumption of undue influence arises merely from the fact that a man who is of sound mind makes a will in favor of his mistress, or in favor of one with whom his relations have been meretricious.
The decedent was a white man who was involved with a black woman during his lifetime. When he prepared his will, he told the executor that he wished none of his property to go to his family and instead wanted all of his property to go to the woman. The decedent also executed a deed in her favor. The relatives contested the will on the ground of undue influence. The jury rendered a verdict for the relatives. The circuit court entered judgment on a jury verdict and canceled the decedent’s will and deed. Appellants, executor and beneficiary, challenged the decision of the court.
Under the circumstances, was undue influence sufficiently proven, thereby justifying the cancellation of the decedent’s will?
The court reversed the decision of the circuit court. The court held that the judge improperly instructed the jury that if they viewed consideration of $ 1 as extremely inadequate, that could be considered an indication of undue influence amounting to oppression, justifying a verdict for the relatives. The court held that the deed was clearly a deed of gift. The charge predetermined the outcome because the consideration was unequal to the value of the land. There was no evidence of undue influence. The illicit relationship was not sufficient per se to warrant a conclusion of undue influence. The testimony established that the decedent was of sound mind and body when he made his will and executed the deed. The court remanded the matter.