Comments on Undue Influence

August 20, 2018 § Leave a comment

Last week we visited the Saget estate case with its undue-influence issues. Here are several observations:

  • This case was before the COA for the second time. The first appeal was dismissed by the COA because the judgment disposed of fewer than all the issues raised in the case (i.e., the will contest), and there was no R54 certification. After the dismissal, the chancellor filed the certification, and the second appeal was not dismissed by the COA.
  • If you have a judgment from the trial court that disposes of fewer than all of the issues, or grants relief to fewer than all of the parties, you must make sure that the judge certifies per R 54 that there is no just cause to delay an appeal if you plan or anticipate an appeal. If the judge does not do it on his own, file a timely R59 motion asking him to do so. It will save time and expense.
  • This case is an excellent exposition of the law in this area. A couple of previous posts on the point are here (will contests) and here (inter vivos gifts between spouses).
  • Again, on lack of findings (mentioned in Fn 6), don’t be afraid to file a R59 motion asking for more specific findings if you fear that you might get a remand based on what the judge did rule. If you want to soften the blow to your already-overworked chancellor, you can offer to prepare proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.
  • Undue influence cases have a definite framework of law that you must build your case on, and they are quite fact-intensive. Speculation and supposition will not win the case. It takes strong, definite proof.

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