Called for Jury Duty? You May Be Excused Based on Your Age

July 10, 2016

In many states, seniors have the right to decline jury duty based on their age. But the age limits and rules vary by state and by type of court, so if you are summoned for jury duty, check with the court to determine if you are exempt.

The majority of states have a rule in place that allows individuals over a certain age to choose not to serve on a jury if called. How this works varies by state and by court. Some states allow anyone over a certain age to be permanently exempted; other states allow seniors to be excused from serving if they are called. Some states require notice in writing; other states have a box the senior can check on the jury summons form. The ages at which seniors can be exempted or excused are 65 (Mississippi and South Carolina), 70 (Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia), 72 (North Carolina and Wyoming), 75 (Arizona, Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania), and 80 (Hawaii and South Dakota).

Some states have more complicated rules regarding seniors and jury duty. In Nevada, for example, everyone over age 65 who lives 65 miles or more away from the court is exempt from serving on a jury. Once you reach age 70 in Nevada, you are exempt from serving on a jury no matter where you live. In California, individuals with a permanent health problem can be exempted from jury duty, but if you are 70 years or older, you don’t need a doctor’s verification of the health problem.

Each of the federal district courts has its own rules about jury service. Many federal courts offer excuses from service, on individual request, to designated groups, including people over age 70.

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What Is Undue Influence?

Saying that there has been “undue influence” is often used as a reason to contest a will or estate plan, but what does it mean?

Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure on an individual, causing that individual to act contrary to his or her wishes and to the benefit of the influencer or the influencer’s friends. The pressure can take the form of deception, harassment, threats, or isolation. Often the influencer separates the individual from their loved ones in order to coerce. The elderly and infirm are usually more susceptible to undue influence.

To prove a loved one was subject to undue influence in drafting an estate plan, you have to show that the loved one disposed of his or her property in a way that was unexpected under the circumstances, that he or she is susceptible to undue influence (because of illness, age, frailty, or a special relationship with the influencer), and that the person who exerted the influence had the opportunity to do so. Generally, the burden of proving undue influence is on the person asserting undue influence. However, if the alleged influencer had a fiduciary relationship with your loved one, the burden may be on the influencer to prove that there was no undue influence. People who have a fiduciary relationship can include a child, a spouse, or an agent under a power of attorney. For more information on contesting a will, go here.

When drawing up a will or estate plan, it is important to avoid even the appearance of undue influence. For example, if you are planning on leaving everything to your daughter who is also your primary caregiver, your other children may argue that your daughter took advantage of her position to influence you. To avoid the appearance of undue influence, do not involve any family members who are inheriting under your will in drafting your will. Family members should not be present when you discuss the will with your attorney or when you sign it. To be totally safe, family members shouldn’t even drive or accompany you to the attorney’s office. You can also get a formal assessment of your mental capabilities done by a medical professional before you draft estate planning documents. For more information on preventing a will contest, go here.

July 14, 2016

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