Moses had a will that left
most of her things to her sister (and a few other people). A week after
she died, a lawyer named Holland stepped forward with a new will that left
everything to Holland.
The new will revoked the
Holland's relationship with
Moses was described as one of "dubious morality."
Moses had declared Holland
to be her boyfriend.
He was 15 years younger
He was also her lawyer on
a number of business deals.
Moses had been widowed
three times and was perhaps reluctant to marry a fourth time.
Moses' sister (et. al.)
contested the new will and asked for the older will to be reinstated.
They argued that Moses was
suffering from Holland's undue influence.
They argued that Moses
lacked testamentary capacity.
The Trial Court found for
Moses' sister and invalidated the new will. Holland appealed.
The Mississippi Supreme Court
The Mississippi Supreme
Court found that there had been a confidential or fiduciary
relationship between Holland and
The existence of such a
relationship creates a rebutable presumption of undue influence.
Holland attempted to rebut
the presumption by showing that the will had been drawn up by another
attorney (Holland's partner), and that the partner and Moses wrote the
will without his participation.
However, the Court found
that the lawyer only wrote down what Moses told him and did not provide
her with independent advice or counsel.
Undue influence means more than simply writing the will for
someone. You can influence someone without being physically present.
In order to rebut a
presumption of undue influence, a
person must provide clear and convincing evidence that there was no undue influence. Holland did not meet that standard.
There were actually two confidential
relationships (lawyer-client, a
relationship of trust). Where there are two, you need clear
and convincing evidence.
When there is just one,
you only need a preponderance of evidence in order to rebut.
In a dissent, it was argued
that, due to their long relationship, it was perfectly reasonable that
Moses would leave things to Holland in her will. You are supposed to
leave things to loved ones, aren't you?
What else could Moses have
done to prove that she wanted to leave her estate to Holland? Would it
even be possible under the standard set by this decision?