After a loved one's death, you likely understand that his or her estate will go through the probate process. At some point, you may have discussed your family member's intentions and wishes for property distribution and other related estate topics, and as a result, you may feel that you have an understanding of what to expect when the time comes to disclose the terms of the will. However, you may feel blindsided if the information revealed in the will completely differs from your expectations.
Certainly, individuals can change their estate plans at any time, but some situations may present cause for concern. If the details of the will have changed significantly enough, you may suspect that someone subjected your loved one to undue influence in order to gain favorable terms. Some factors may act as red flags for this type of situation.
Commonly, individuals leave the bulk of their estates to various family members and other close loved ones. If you discover that the decedent's will suddenly disinherits you and other family members that had reasonable expectation for inclusion, you may wonder what caused this outcome. Disinheriting family may not necessarily point to foul play as the closeness of relationships can impact a person's choices when it comes to heirs and beneficiaries. However, certain other issues may also cause concern.
If your loved one had to have a caretaker due to mental or physical ailments in his or her later years, a professional or other outside party may have taken on this role. If other family members did not receive an inheritance and the will indicates that a considerable amount of the estate goes to the caretaker, you may suspect undue influence. Elderly individuals often face considerable vulnerability, and some caretakers may attempt to take advantage of those vulnerabilities in hopes of benefitting financially.
Lack of connection
If you noticed that your loved one lacked connection with family in his or her later years, the possibility exists that a caretaker or other individual may have purposefully isolated your family member in hopes of carrying out schemes to alter estate plans. Social isolation can make a person feel as if loved ones no longer care and that their caretaker deserves to inherit the estate.
Challenging a will
If any of these or other factors cause you concern, you may feel that undue influence resulted in unnecessary and unjust changes to your loved one's will. Luckily, you have the option to move forward with probate litigation in order to challenge the will in hopes of honoring your family member's true intentions.
Because proving undue influence has its challenges, you may wish to enlist the assistance of an experienced Texas attorney. This individual can help you gather evidence and build a case to ensure that you honor your loved one's true final wishes.