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Know This About Undue Influence

  • On behalf of: The Hughes Law Firm, P.C.
  • Published: February 22, 2020

Losing a loved one is an emotional experience that can often lead to stress as you handle that person’s final affairs. More than likely, once you go through the estate plan, you’ll see that everything is in order. Unfortunately, sometimes, there are surprises.

When everything isn’t as you thought it would be, you have to determine what you’re going to do. The answer to this might be just following the estate plan. The other option is that you can contest the plan. There are very limited instances in which you can do this. One is when your loved one created the estate plan under the undue influence of another person.

Undue influence defined

Undue influence means that a person had to do something they didn’t intend to do because another person forced them to. There are many people who might do this with an elderly person. These include family members, caregivers and anyone else who has contact with the individual. Even telemarketers can exercise undue influence over a person who isn’t mentally prepared to deal with them.

Generally, undue influence occurs when a person is being told what to do by someone who is considered stronger. This might be a person who can exercise some sort of control over the person. They may be able to stop the person from spending money or prevent them from getting adequate medical care. Even things like refusing to cook for the elderly person until they change the will is undue influence because it is coercion.

Difficult to prove

Because undue influence usually occurs without any witnesses, it can be hard to prove. In some cases, it might be easier to show that the person was cognitively competent when they created the new will.

Circumstances surrounding the person’s care and quality of life might come into the picture. This might be the case if a person has multiple children but only one is caring for the parent. That adult child may refuse to let the other kids see the parent. While they have the parent to themselves, they could convince them to change their estate plan to bypass the other siblings.

If you think that your loved one’s estate plan doesn’t accurately represent their wishes, such as if it if markedly different from a previous version, you may choose to take legal action. Consider this carefully because contesting the will could lead to tension between you and your family members.

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