When is there risk of undue influence on an estate plan?

by | Jan 30, 2024 | Probate And Trust Litigation

There are only a handful of legal reasons for those who have lost a loved one to challenge the deceased’s estate plan. Contesting a will in probate court can only occur when someone has a viable justification for doing so.

Sometimes, family members can prove to the courts that an older adult created or changed their estate plan after a loss of capacity. The courts might invalidate documents when someone did not understand their circumstances or the implications of estate planning changes. Other times, the decedent may have retained their cognitive abilities throughout their golden years. However, their physical health may have declined. Those who are vulnerable later in life due to physical or cognitive challenges often require the support of caregivers.

Families can sometimes contest estate plans if a caregiver becomes the primary beneficiary of the estate by raising questions about undue influence.

Caregivers may exert undue influence on testators

Someone leaving instructions about the distribution of their property after their death should set terms that align with their personal values and the state of their relationships. Outside individuals do not have any right to demand specific concessions during the estate planning process.

Unfortunately, some people intentionally try to use their relationship with an older adult as a means of accessing more of their assets after their passing. Other family members or beneficiaries could challenge an estate plan if they can show that an outside party exerted undue influence on the testator.

A situation usually needs to meet certain standards for families to have the option of claiming undue influence in probate court. Generally, the testator must be vulnerable, and a beneficiary must have been in a position to use that vulnerability against them.

Undue influence could involve someone intentionally interfering in the relationship that the testator has with other family members. It could also involve denying someone food or medication to coerce them into setting certain estate planning terms.

Family members can potentially claim that undue influence affected an estate plan when a beneficiary was in a position to exert personal authority over the testator. Undue influence typically undermines someone’s actual wishes regarding their personal legacy.

Challenging a will that has been unreasonably influenced by an outside party can help people better uphold the wishes of a deceased loved one.


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