When a loved one dies, finding out that they omitted you from their will can be difficult to deal with. Your emotions may be further aggravated if you learn that the person they have bequeathed their assets to is someone you do not believe to be deserving of their estate.
Depending on the circumstances prior to your loved one’s demise, you may suspect that someone took advantage of them during the will creation process. And in extreme cases, this abuse can lead to undue influence, which can form the basis of challenging the decedent’s will.
Understanding undue influence
Basically, undue influence occurs when someone convinces a testator to favor them during the will creation at the expense of others for suspect reasons. This phenomenon generally occurs when a testator is vulnerable and, thus, dependent on the influencer for day-to-day care.
It is important to understand that undue influence is a specific legal standard. For instance, requesting your grandparent to leave their 1964 Chevy Malibu does not necessarily rise to the level of undue influence. Rather, the term “undue” implies that the testator was persuaded or pressured to make particular concessions while signing their will. In other words, they did not act wholly on their own.
How can you prove that your loved one was unduly influenced?
Undue influence can be particularly difficult to prove, since the testator cannot come to court to testify about their reasons for distributing their estate in the manner in which they did. That said, here are some of the elements you’ll need to prove when arguing undue influence:
- The testator’s frailty or illness made them susceptible to undue influence
- The testator heavily depended on or trusted the person who manipulated them
- The influencer took advantage of the testator’s condition and benefitted from the asset distribution
- The testator’s properties are distributed in a manner that wouldn’t be expected under normal circumstances
Manipulating or defrauding a vulnerable person is unacceptable. If you believe that your deceased relative was unduly influenced into signing their will in a particular manner, you’ll need to take steps to correct the situation. Seeking legal guidance will be a good first step forward.