The issue before the court was whether or not to grant the appeal made by aggrieved relatives from the Decree of the Register of Wills admitting to probate the last will and testament of the decedent, Georgiana Asselin, because it was a product of undue influence.
Once a Will is probated with the Bucks County Register of Wills, a presumption of the Will’s validity arises and the burden shifts to those who would challenge the will to prove undue influence. The Pennsylvania Courts use a three-part test to determine whether undue influence affected a testator in creating a Will. This test was first described in In Re Estate of Glover, 669 A.2d 1011 (Pa. Super. 1996).
Those challenging the Will must establish a prima facie case showing that:
- The testator was of weakened intellect when the Will was executed;
- The proponent of the Will stood in a confidential relationship with the testator; and
- The proponent of the Will received a substantial benefit under the Will.
If the person challenging the will can prove all three of these points, the burden shifts to the proponent of the Will (the person who wants the Will terms respected) to prove that the Will was NOT the product of undue influence. Now, let me apply this standard to the facts of the Asselin Case to help you understand how to apply them to your fact pattern.
Read Peter Klenk’s new article walking you through the dissection of this real, Bucks County Will Challenge Case heard by the Bucks County Orphans’ Court based on Undue Influence.