A will that the testator created or changed shortly before passing away can cause controversy and suspicion among family members. Especially when the will names a single heir who was the deceased’s new “friend” or caregiver and disinherits their children, grandchildren and other traditional heirs.
A testator can pick anybody they wish to inherit their estate. But only if they are free to make that decision of their own free will. If something — or someone — took away the testator’s ability to select their heirs based on their own judgment and values, the resulting will is invalid in the state of Texas. One way a person can take away free will from another is called “undue influence.”
Undue influence means using manipulation, deception or threats to overcome a person’s free will can force them to do (or not do) something. In this context, it refers to causing a person to change their estate plan to include you as an heir or beneficiary when they would not have done so otherwise. Elderly people, especially those struggling with dementia, can be vulnerable to an unscrupulous person who wants a senior’s assets for themselves.
Were they unduly influenced?
From the outside, it is not always easy to tell if your loved one was the victim of undue influence, especially after they are gone. Some signs that a will was created or changed under undue influence include:
- The new heir was the one who suggested changing the will or was the person who contacted the lawyer who drafted the document.
- The new heir kept the deceased away from their relatives and friends.
- The new heir had a lot of authority over the deceased, such as by being their caretaker.
- The deceased showed signs of mental decline around the time the new will was executed.
These are only examples. There could be other evidence that the deceased was under undue influence. If you suspect a loved one’s will is invalid due to someone’s undue influence, discuss it with a probate attorney. A lawyer with experience in probate litigation will know what to look for and how to build a compelling case to challenge the will.