People sometimes talk about probate litigation as though it were innately frivolous. They may imply that those fighting over someone’s estate do so out of greed. While that may be the case occasionally, the probate courts don’t generally grant hearings over minor complaints or personal dissatisfaction.
Those taking legal action against family members or an estate typically can only do so if their situation meets very specific standards. One of the scenarios in which people can challenge or contest an estate plan or will is when a person in a position to manipulate or influence the testator becomes one of the primary beneficiaries of the estate.
Undue influence could lead to a will contest
The term undue influence is the legal phrase for when one party uses their relationship with another to control their decisions. In an estate planning context, spouses, children and professional caregivers might be in a position to exert undue influence.
Someone with control over an individual’s finances, healthcare or daily life could coerce or even threaten and a vulnerable older adult into changing their estate plan. Claims of undue influence generally require specific circumstances, including someone in a position of authority over the testator receiving a portion of their estate.
Someone’s estate should be a reflection of their relationships and personal wishes, not simply a means for a manipulative individual to seek personal enrichment. When family members believe that a caregiver or other family member inappropriately influenced the testator, they may have grounds to take the matter to probate court.
Contesting a will that includes terms set by an outside party is a reasonable move by those who love someone who recently died.