What is Undue Influence?

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It sounds like fodder for a soap opera, but it happens far too often in real life: a sudden last-minute revision to an estate plan, made by someone possibly of unsound mind, that leaves a huge amount of money to a suspicious party.

Undue influence is a form of elder abuse. The undue influencer will manipulate the estate holder, turn them against family members, and convince them to sign over a large share of the estate.

Signs of Undue Influence

If any of the following occurred, it could be a sign of undue influence:

  • A prominent member of the family is sudden excluded from the will with no clear reason why
  • Someone else is given a disproportionate share of the asset
  • This person was in a position to exert influence over the estate holder
  • The will-writer was in advanced age, health, poor mental state, or otherwise in a position to be taken advantage of

This could be a housekeeper, a friend, a formerly distant relative, or an acquaintance of the person in charge of the will. All of a sudden, this person is in the will-writer’s life a lot more, staying at their house, calling them on the phone every day, slowly convincing them to rewrite the will in their favor.

Is There Anything I Can Do?

The good news is, even if the undue influencer is successful in getting the will rewritten to their preferences, that isn’t the end of the road. You will have to prove in court that undue influence occurred. To do this, the court will rely on witness testimony. With the help of an attorney, you can gather witnesses who knew the will-writer well. If you all can provide a compelling testimony that the will was manipulated, the will can be invalidated.

It is essential that you speak to an attorney with specific experience in estate planning, particularly these kinds of disputes. This is a very complex area of law with many deadlines and stipulations. You don’t want someone who specializes in car accidents to handle a probate dispute.

Written on behalf of Charles Triay by AskTheLawyers.com™