Losing someone you love is never easy, but it can be particularly difficult when you believe that other people intend to subvert your loved one’s wishes and cut you out of the estate. Family conflicts often arise during the administration of large estates.
People whom you have known and trusted your entire life can behave in uncharacteristically greedy, selfish or cruel manners when a large amount of money is on the line. Some people, including children or spouses who serve as caretakers, may go so far as pressuring someone in their final years to remove other beneficiaries from their estate plan for their own personal gain.
This practice involves the application of undue influence on someone to get them to change their will. If you believe that undue influence played a role in changes to an estate plan or will that you should benefit from, you may need to consider challenging the last will.
Undue influence often involves intense emotional abuse
To secure control over someone’s estate, people may develop a plan in which they isolate their target and then slowly pressure them to make the desired changes. While the testator may initially resist such efforts, the longer they go without interacting with the rest of their family, the more likely they are to bend to the will of a caregiver who has control over their daily quality of life and freedoms.
Those in a compromised mental state may even begin to believe the idea that they have been abandoned by the rest of their family, even if the caretaker is the one denying people access or communications.
To exert undue influence over another person, someone close to a vulnerable adult has to intentionally manipulate them. While these abusive tactics may be out of character for the people you know in your family, that doesn’t mean certain people aren’t capable of surprising you when they stand to gain control over a large amount of money or other valuable assets.
Can you show what the original wishes of your loved one were?
One of the best and most straightforward ways to demonstrate potential undue influence in a last will is to present the courts with earlier estate planning documents. If you can demonstrate that someone had once intended to fairly split their assets among all their children and their surviving spouse, disinheriting everyone in favor of their caretaker may seem more suspicious.
Similarly, if you have documents or written correspondence that discuss the desires of your loved one for their legacy, you may be able to demonstrate discrepancies between those wishes and the estate plan or last will currently on record. Other people may also be able to speak up regarding the publicly announced or discussed wishes of your loved one.
The more documentation you have of their original intentions and of any systemic isolation or manipulation they experienced, the easier it will be to convince the courts that undue influence affected the contents of the last will.