Building An Estate Plan That Is Right For You

What if family members suspect that undue influence changed a will?

Estate administration in Minnesota can be a lengthy process. The personal representative of the estate must find testamentary documents. They need to submit documents to the courts, send letters out to creditors and fulfill someone’s responsibilities before distributing assets to their heirs or chosen beneficiaries.

Occasionally, the process takes even longer because the family members of the deceased have concerns about the estate planning paperwork. Sometimes, family members worry that undue influence may have undermined someone’s true intentions. Those who suspect undue influence can potentially take the matter to the Minnesota probate courts.

They must prove that undue influence occurred

Minnesota law lists undue influence by an outside party as one of the few circumstances that would justify a will contest. Late-in-life estate planning changes and highly uneven bequests are among some of the warning signs that undue influence may have affected a Minnesota estate plan.

Family members need more than just a sense of dissatisfaction to contest a will based on claims of undue influence. They will need proof that supports their allegations. Undue influence typically involves someone in a caregiving position or a close relationship with the decedent abusing their authority for personal gain.

The first piece of evidence people need is proof that a particular beneficiary had close contact with the decedent or held a caregiving position. Next, it is typically necessary to show that the decedent created or updated their documents while in the care of a particular individual. Finally, there needs to be proof that the terms of the estate plan seemingly benefit that individual.

Prior estate planning paperwork, written communications with the decedent and a host of other evidence could raise questions about whether a will truly reflected someone’s legacy wishes. Significant changes to someone’s estate plan or testamentary documents that contradict someone’s long-held wishes about their estate could be warning signs of the influence of an outside party.

A successful claim of undue influence could lead to the courts upholding earlier versions of someone’s testamentary documents. If they had never drafted a will before, then the Minnesota probate courts might apply intestate succession laws. Either way, understanding when legal action is possible can help people to more effectively honor the true final wishes of a deceased loved one.