In re Will of Moses
227 So. 2d 829 (1969)

During her second marriage, Fannie Moses struck up a friendship with Clarence Holland, an attorney who was 15 years younger than her. After the death of her third husband, Holland became her lover as well as her attorney. Three years before her death, she made a will devising almost all of her property to Holland.

  • The will was drafted by a reputable attorney named Dan Shell, who had no connection with Holland, and who did not tell Holland of the will.
  • Moses’ sister challenged the will on the ground of undue influence.

The Trial Court found for Moses’ sister and invalidated the new will. Holland appealed.

  • The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The Mississippi Supreme Court found that there had been a confidential or fiduciary relationship between Holland and Moses.
      • 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 who 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?