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Undue influence is a subjective standard that is difficult to both define and prove. Because objective aspects of undue influence are generally veiled in secrecy. The proof of undue influence is either largely or entirely circumstantial. La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 1479. Undue influence includes physical coercion or duress, more subtle influences, such as creating resentment toward a natural object of a testator's bounty by false statements, may constitute undue influence. To annul a testamentary disposition on the basis of undue influence, the influence must be operative at the time the testament is executed.
Approximately two years before his death, Andrew John Davisson executed an olographic will leaving the entirety of his estate to Sharon P. Cox and disinheriting his only son and surviving heir, Jordan Davisson. Sharon appealed the trial court's judgment invalidating Andrew's will for undue influence and mental incapacity, and declaring null and void two cash sale deeds.
Did the trial court err in finding Andrew's will a product of undue influence?
The court held that the trial court did not clearly err in rendering judgment against Sharon and in favor of Andrew’s heir, finding Andrew’s will to be invalid based on undue influence and mental incapacity, La. Civ. Code Ann. arts. 1482, 1471, 1470, 1477, 1483, because, inter alia, there was clear and convincing evidence of Andrew’s mental and emotional confusion and Sharon was a person he barely knew. Although the trial court erred in declaring deeds from Andrew to Sharon to be null and void for improper form, La. Civ. Code Ann. arts. 1839, 2440, 1833, 1837, the appellate court found that sales were not valid because there was no meeting of the minds to constitute consent where there was strong evidence of fraud and incapacity, La. Civ. Code Ann. arts. 1927, 1948, 1953, 1957.