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Undue influence in estate planning

| Aug 4, 2020 | Uncategorized

Your dad’s will is announced, and he has left what you assumed would be yours to someone else. There are several grounds on which you can challenge a will. One of these is undue influence, defined as “virtually any act of persuasion that overcomes the free will and judgment of another.” In other words, the person who benefited used their influence to persuade your father to favor them.

Successful challenges to wills are rare, but they do happen. It is up to you to prove there was something wrong. You need to show four things if you suspect undue influence:

  • The victim was susceptible: Perhaps your father had dementia or another psychological or mental condition. Maybe they had a physical disability, which made them overly reliant on a carer.
  • There was an opportunity: A nurse who spent a lot of time looking after your father in a care home may have had a chance. Or his new girlfriend, who entered his life a few months before he died. Or the local preacher who your dad had suddenly started to place his faith in. Or perhaps you live the other side of the country and feel your sister, who lived close to your dad and saw him every day, had the chance. 
  • That the person accused was inclined to use their influence: Maybe dad’s new girlfriend tried to stop you from seeing him saying he was too ill for visitors. Maybe a care home worker changed the shift schedules so that she alone spent time with your dad.
  • There is a suspicious transaction: Perhaps your dad changed his will to favor your sister a few days after he learned he had days to live. Maybe he somehow went to an attorney and signed a new will that preferred his girlfriend when she told you he was unable to leave the house.

If you need to challenge a will, it’s smart to understand the challenges of the process — but you need to act quickly to protect your interests. An experienced attorney can help you learn more.