How undue influence can be grounds for a will challenge

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2023 | Estate Litigation and Administration |

Will challenges are unusual in Virginia probate proceedings, but they do happen sometimes. One allowed reason to claim a will submitted in the decedent’s name is invalid is known as “undue influence.”

Like any other legal document, the party signing their will must have the intent and mental capacity to understand the document’s terms and wish to make them legally enforceable. Simply put, undue influence takes away this decision-making capacity. Instead of mental incompetence due to illness or injury, undue influence refers to another person manipulating, tricking or threatening you into creating or amending the will.

How undue influence works

Most of us like to think of ourselves as strong-minded and independent. But as we age and our mental and physical abilities fade, many of us become reliant on a caretaker for help with daily tasks. That caretaker could be a relative, friend or hired professional. But if they are greedy and unscrupulous, a caretaker can take advantage of the situation and the testator’s infirm health. They can convince the person that their children do not love them and do not deserve an inheritance. Or they can threaten to withhold medicine or care unless the testator puts the caretaker in the will. Either way, the result would be a will that does not reflect the testator’s true intentions, but their fear and confusion.

Undue influence or not?

Such a will is void under Virginia law. But for that to happen, someone must come forward with evidence that the will was the result of undue influence. And not every such claim is legitimate. The person challenging the will may have other reasons, such as being unhappy with the size of their inheritance or the choice of estate administrator. Such challenges require experienced legal guidance for all parties involved.


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