Undue influence is one of the legal grounds for contesting a will. It happens when a person’s judgment and free will is interfered with using underhand tactics such as coercion, deception or trickery.
If your loved one was unduly influenced to make changes to their final wishes, you can contest the will and have it revoked. Should you succeed, the court will set aside the will and distribute the estate differently.
However, probate courts will not be quick to invalidate a will without sufficient proof which may not be easy to come by. Here is what you need to prove undue influence in a will contest:
It all comes down to motive, ability, opportunity and method
The perpetrator’s motive must be evident when proving undue influence. Usually, there is a financial motive behind it all, but it needs to be clear to the court what they stood to benefit from their actions.
The person who unduly influenced your loved one must have had the capacity to do so based on their relationship. It can be anyone who misused the trust they had with your loved one or took advantage of their vulnerability. For example, their caregiver, financial advisor, spouse or even their attorney may all have an opportunity.
Showing how the perpetrator exercised undue influence is also crucial. Did they use lies or threats to isolate your loved one or coerce them to act in a certain way? What did they do to tamper with your loved one’s free will?
Protecting your inheritance
Undue influence can deny you your rightful share of your loved one’s estate. Therefore, if you suspect foul play in the will, you must act fast before it is executed.
Knowing the legal steps to take when contesting a will and what you need along the way will significantly increase your chances of success and help you protect what’s yours.