A will should reflect the last wishes of its maker on how their estate should be handled after they are gone. But what if they were unduly influenced into creating the will through coercion or other overbearing tactics?
In such a case, the court could declare the will void. It means that it will not play a part when distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.
What can amount to undue influence?
In essence, undue influence can be anything that causes another person to act or fail to act according to their free will and judgment. It involves an abuse of the trust and confidence that the owner of the will had in the other person who was only acting in their interests.
How can you prove it?
Proving undue influence can be hard since the owner of the will may no longer be around to shed light on the matter. However, these three factors will come into play when showing that your loved one was unduly influenced by a third party when making their will.
- The existence of a confidential relationship
- Active participation in coming up with the will
- Undue profit from the will
If you prove these elements of your case and show that the individual took advantage of your loved one’s vulnerability to benefit themselves, you can successfully invalidate the will.
What happens next?
When a court declares that a will is invalid due to undue influence of its maker by a third party, the entire document is usually struck out from the probate process. Your state’s intestacy laws will apply to the estate in distributing it to the beneficiaries.
The decision to contest a will is never an easy one. However, if you suspect foul play, it is advisable to take action and protect your interests as a beneficiary to the estate.