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4 signs of undue influence that you can potentially use to contest a will

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2024 | Probate Litigation |

The aftermath of the death of a loved one is a difficult time, and it can become even more complicated if you suspect there may be something amiss with their will. Undue influence usually occurs when someone manipulates or coerces a testator (the person making the will) into leaving them a larger inheritance than they would have otherwise.

This can be a heartbreaking situation, leaving you questioning the validity of a will and the true wishes of the deceased. Equipping yourself with the knowledge to identify signs of undue influence can help determine if you have a case for contesting a will.

Sudden changes to the will

Undue influence is often subtle and covert, but there are some key warning signs that can raise suspicion. An obvious red flag is sudden changes to the will. If the will significantly deviates from the deceased’s previously expressed wishes, particularly if it benefits someone who wasn’t previously included, this can be a cause for concern.

Isolation from family and friends

Another sign of undue influence to look out for is isolation from family and friends. Did the beneficiary suddenly become the primary caregiver for the testator, limiting contact with other loved ones? This isolation can be a tactic to control access to information and influence decisions.

Dependence on the beneficiary

Excessive dependence on the beneficiary who inexplicably benefits the most from the will is yet another red flag. Was the testator reliant on the beneficiary for basic needs or financial support? This creates a power imbalance and makes the testator more susceptible to pressure. Additionally, while not always suspicious, if the beneficiary was present during the signing and there were concerns about undue influence, it may be worth noting.

The testator’s mental capacity

The testator’s mental capacity is also something worth looking into. If the testator was experiencing cognitive decline, illness or undue stress at the time the will was drafted, it raises questions about their ability to make sound decisions. Unexplained discrepancies within the will can back this up. Are there inconsistencies between the will and the deceased’s known relationships with beneficiaries? This can be a sign that something isn’t right.

Contesting a will due to undue influence is a complex process, but it can be necessary to help ensure that a loved one’s final wishes are honored. By recognizing the signs of undue influence and taking decisive action, you can help protect everyone’s rights and help ensure a fair distribution of an estate.