How can undue influence affect an estate plan?

On Behalf of | Dec 29, 2022 | Estate Planning |

Undue influence is one of the few valid grounds on which a court will accept a challenge to a deceased person’s estate plan. It means that one person used their position to exert influence to get someone to change their estate plan in their favor.

When might people suspect it?

Typically people claim it when the deceased changed their will shortly before they died. It might also be an issue if someone only got around to making their will shortly before they died.

People change their estate plans all the time, so proving undue influence can be challenging. There are four things to show:

#1. Susceptibility

Why would the deceased have bowed to the pressure? Typically you would need to show that their mental health was weak or that there were other circumstances, such as someone having information to blackmail them into changing their will.

#2. Opportunity

Carers or family members who cared for a dying person, especially when the rest of the family lived far away, are often accused because they have the exclusive access needed to convince someone to make estate plan changes.

#3. Disposition

Many people have the opportunity to exert undue influence, but most would never dream of doing it. What proves this one person wanted to do so?

#4. Proof of change

Trying to exert undue influence is not enough. There needs to be an actual change as a result.

If you wish to make a last minute change to your will, seek legal guidance on how to do so in a way that makes it clear you were not subject to undue influence.


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