The reading of most wills is a fairly unsurprising experience. Oftentimes, our elderly loved ones will share the contents of their estate plan ahead of time or will have their estate distributed as expected to family. However, in some situations, the will may distribute the assets of the estate unexpectedly or strongly favor one person who recently entered or reentered your family member’s life. If this situation has happened to you, your loved one may have been unduly influenced when creating his or her will, and you may have a valid claim for getting the will discarded. Talk to a probate attorney in your area to learn more.
What is Undue Influence?
Undue influence occurs when your loved one becomes dependent on a person, typically a caretaker, family member, or friend, who then uses that position of influence to supplant the wishes of your loved one in the will with his or her own. Some of the most common signs that a person is attempting to unduly influence your loved one include the following:
- Your loved one stops making phone calls to family members
- Your loved one stops visiting friends, family members, etc.
- Your loved one increasingly says that “the influencer can do this task for me,” when he or she was previously independent
- The influencer prohibits visits (under the guise that the person “needs rest” or “cannot be disturbed”)
- The influencer takes extra steps to prohibit contact by those who could help the person break free from the undue influence
- The influencer monitors visits
- The influencer frequently moves the person around to different living environments in order to prevent contact and visits
- Your loved one makes statements to the effect of “the influencer wants me to do this, and will be upset if I do not”
- Your loved one visits an estate planning attorney and financial advisor recommended by the influencer
- The influencer spends excessive amounts of time around the person, much of which is unsupervised
What to do if You Suspect Undue Influence in a Loved One’s Will
If you suspect that undue influence was a part of your family member’s will, the first step is to speak with a probate attorney as quickly as possible. If you have access, take the original previous versions of the will or make copies of previous versions. Give your attorney a list of names of people who witnessed possible undue influence on your loved one and be prepared to file a lawsuit in court if you believe that the undue influence cost you a portion of your loved one’s estate. The faster you file a lawsuit, the better your chances are of success because it minimizes the chances that the estate has been distributed and the case closed in probate court.
Call or Contact a Probate Attorney Right Away
If you suspect that a loved one was unduly influenced when creating his or her will, the clock is already ticking against your claim. Call or contact us to learn more about this article. We are happy to answer your questions.