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Reading between the lines: Spotting signs of undue influence in a will

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2024 | Estate Litigation |

During the grieving process, the emotions of family members are high. Reading the last will and testament among family members and close friends is a vulnerable situation. While it should serve as closure and the first step to moving forward, it could also create a heated argument between the beneficiaries. Sometimes, a will might sound like it was written by a different person, and this could be because of undue influence.  

What is undue influence?

When the author of the will is quite old or is in poor health, they could be easily swayed by others. Undue influence often involves a third party, pressuring the will’s author to include them or someone else in the will. This is a legally recognized issue that could invalidate a will. 

How to notice possible undue influence?

One of the most common signs of undue influence is when the will favors a person with less right to the inheritance over the other natural beneficiaries. For instance, if a caretaker or a distant family member became a beneficiary over the author’s legitimate son. While this does not automatically mean that this decision was forced, it could sound suspicious especially when it was a sudden revision. 

When the benefiting person was heavily involved in the will writing process, it could also be a sign of undue influence. It becomes more suspicious when they are also involved in selecting a lawyer and in finalizing the will. 

What happens next?

In this situation, family members might want to contest the will. They will have to go through estate litigation, filing necessary documents with the court. This process could take a short amount of time or several years.  

Losing a loved one is a heartbreaking experience. It becomes even more unbearable when you notice that their final wishes aren’t something truly representative of their desires. Undue influence is a sensitive issue and it is best to consult legal experts when challenging the validity of a will.