How To Prove Undue Influence In A Will
Oftentimes, a deceased person’s loved ones are surprised to find that the deceased left them nothing under a will. These loved ones may try to challenge the will under the assumption that the deceased would not have drafted the will in such a way if not for the presence of undue influence. The following article will provide some information regarding how someone can challenge a will by proving undue influence.
What is “undue influence”?
Undue influence is a concept that describes a situation in which one person takes advantage of a position of power over another person. The inequity in power between the two parties often results in the invalidation of the disadvantaged party’s consent, as that party becomes unable to freely exercise his independent will. In the context of undue influence and wills, someone exerts undue influence over the testator (the person who created the will). This person almost always exerts this kind of influence in order to directly benefit from the terms of the will. The person using undue influence can either persuade the testator to draft the will in a particular way, or if the will is already drafted, to change material terms of the will for the person’s own benefit.
What are some signs of undue influence in a will?
Sometimes, it may be difficult to pinpoint specific instances of undue influence. However, there are some common signs of undue influence that you should look out for:
- The influencer might encourage the testator to make changes to their will in secret
- The influencer might urge the testator to use language that favors the influencer over other beneficiaries
- The influencer might take a more active role in meetings with the estate planning attorney, while excluding other friends or family members from participating
- The influencer might take a more active role in drafting the will, possibly by encouraging the testator to use an online will to avoid involving an estate planning attorney altogether
- The influencer might take control of other areas of the testator’s life, such as the testator’s finances and spending habits. He might start making more day-to-day decisions and be heavily involved in the care and upkeep of the testator’s home or even move in
Can a will be invalidated if it was the result of undue influence?
Yes. A will can be invalidated if the person challenging the will in probate court is able to show that there was undue influence and that the will does not reflect the actual intent of the testator. If the testator was pressured or manipulated into distributing their property based on the wishes of the influencer when the will was drafted, the will can be invalidated based on the existence of undue influence.
How can someone prove undue influence in a will?
Those family members who believe they were wrongfully excluded from the will can challenge the validity of the will based on undue influence if they are able to show that the contents of the will were not the testator’s true intent. This means that they will need to show proof of the following elements:
- The will distributes the testator’s property in an unexpected way, and without a good explanation
- The testator is someone at risk of being taken advantage of because of his age, health, or diminished mental capacity
- The testator had a special or confidential relationship with the influencer
- The influencer used that confidential relationship to pressure or manipulate the testator regarding the terms of the will
- The influencer benefitted from the will because of influence exerted
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