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Barber v. Holmes, 2007 Ga. LEXIS 793 (Ga. 2007)

Corrine Barber died on June 22, 2005. Her Will left the bulk of her estate to her youngest child, Alecia Holmes (fathered by Adams). When Alecia offered the Will for probate, Corrine’s four older children (fathered by Barber) filed a caveat. They contended the Will was invalid due to undue influence.

The probate court granted the caveat, effectively invalidating the Will. Alecia appealed to Superior Court where she filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. In arguing the Will was the product of undue influence, the Barber children argued that Holmes’ father (Adams) was abusive and that both Holmes and Adams had threatened Corrine, constantly harassed her, essentially forcing her to sign the Will. The undisputed evidence showed, however, that, at the time that Corrine executed her will, she was in her attorney’s office, accompanied only by her attorney and witnesses. Neither Adams nor Holmes was there for the execution ceremony. Before signing the document, Corrine represented that she understood the will and it reflected her wishes at that time.

In light of this evidence, the trial court found, the Barber Children’s testimony, at best, showed that Adams, who is not a beneficiary, exerted some level of influence over Corrine decades before she signed her will, but not at the time of its execution. The evidence fell short of showing any type of influence over Corrine at the time the will was signed. The Superior Court ruled in favor of Alecia, granting her motion. The Barber children appealed.

On appeal the court similarly found the evidence provided no valid proof of undue influence. To be sufficient to invalidate a will, undue influence must reach the level of deception or force and coercion operating on the [T]estat[rix] at the time of execution such that Corrine would have been deprived of her free agency. The decision below was affirmed.

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