One reason for a will contest is known as undue influence. Like other issues, such as fraud, the argument being made by those alleging undue influence is that the will is no longer an accurate representation of what the person wanted when they made it.
Unlike fraud, though, the accusation isn’t that someone else made the will or altered it after it was made. Instead, they’re claiming that someone else used their influence over the person creating the will to convince them to change it — or to manipulate them into doing so. Therefore, the person who wrote the will really did include things — such as a specific division of assets — that even they would not agree with.
Factors that contribute to undue influence
Undue influence cases can be tricky, as the changes to the will were actually made by someone with the legal ability to do so. In determining if that person was influenced by an outside party, the court will consider factors like:
● How vulnerable the elderly person was
● The authority held by the person doing the influencing
● The influencer’s tactics, actions and level of control
● The impact of the changes on the heirs
For instance, if someone mentions to a parent that they may want to leave money to charity and then they pick a charity and change their will, it’s not undue influence. They can freely talk about their decisions with family members.
However, if an heir is taking care of an elderly loved one who is sick and vulnerable, they may ask them to change the will and threaten to withhold medication and care if those changes aren’t made. If the changes then tremendously benefit the influencer, it becomes clear that they used their position of power to exploit an infirm elderly person for financial gain. That could be a case of undue influence.
What should you do next?
Do you believe that one of your loved ones was the victim of undue influence? Are you concerned that their will does not accurately represent what they wanted? If so, you need to begin looking into all of the legal options at your disposal.