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What is undue influence, and how can will challenges on this basis be prevented?

On Behalf of | Oct 2, 2023 | Estate Planning |

People often place a lot of importance on creating an estate plan that provides specific resources for certain people in their lives. They may even want to leave certain assets for charitable causes. No matter how carefully someone has contemplated what should happen to their property when they die, however, there are scenarios in which they might lose control over what happens to their estate.

A scenario involving undue influence could effectively undermine someone’s long-term plans for their legacy, which means that people need to be aware of undue influence and to avoid circumstances that may inspire a will contest filed as a result of related concerns.

What is undue influence?

Undue influence is the legal term for someone using their relationship with a testator to influence their estate planning paperwork. They may pressure or coerce someone into leaving them a larger inheritance or manipulate them into thinking they should not leave resources for someone else previously designated as a beneficiary. Anytime an estate plan no longer includes someone’s personal wishes but instead now includes concessions demanded by an outside individual, such as a spouse or a child, the testator may have experienced undue influence.

How can someone avoid undue influence?

Creating estate planning paperwork early in life before one becomes dependent on caregivers can be an important way to prevent undue influence from derailing their estate planning intentions. Someone who is young and healthy won’t have to worry about a caregiver alienating them from others, threatening to withhold medication or otherwise manipulating them into changing an estate plan.

Additionally, someone who does require support in their later years would likely benefit from involving as many of their loved ones as possible in their care. Having different family members meet different support needs will reduce the likelihood of one person being in a position to intervene in someone’s other relationships and manipulate their estate plan.

Being able to recognize undue influence and taking steps to avoid it can be of the utmost importance for vulnerable older adults who hope to leave behind a particular legacy when they die.