If you believe there have been suspicious changes to your loved one’s Will, such as a disproportionate increase in one person’s share or adding a beneficiary at a later date, you may want to look into contesting it on the grounds of undue influence.
What is Undue Influence?
Undue influence refers to any case in which a Will has been unfairly swayed by the actions of an individual. It can occur in cases where one person is in a position to take advantage of another person and use their power to put pressure on their decisions. In relation to a Will, undue influence will often result in an unfair proportion of the estate going to the influencer, against the true wishes of the person making the Will, otherwise known as the testator. As a result of their inability to exercise free choice in such a situation, this can negate their consent and put you in a position to prove that the person’s wishes were overpowered through coercion.
What Qualifies as Undue Influence?
If you are looking into contesting a will on the grounds of undue influence, then you will need to be able to prove foul play in a court of law. There are many different types of coercion which may qualify as undue influence. One of these is physical violence used against the testator in order to cause them to amend their Will. Another format could be verbal bullying, whereby psychological abuse is used to alter the course of their wishes. If the deceased was seriously ill and thus in a highly vulnerable position, lighter forms of persuasion may qualify as undue influence, as it would take less to wear them down in such a situation. Likewise, if someone takes advantage of their ill health or weakened mental state in order to force amendments to their Will, it may qualify to be contested. More calculated forms of undue influence come in cases where an influencer has sought to poison the mind of a testator by lying to them in order to secure an inheritance or placing gradual pressure on the testator over time.
Reasons to Contest
The most obvious reason to contest a Will based on undue influence is to firstly ensure that the inheritance goes to its rightful owner, and secondly to prevent the offender from getting away with it. The legacy of the deceased often depends on the division of their estate, and if this is farmed out to deceitful influencers rather than deserving family members it can be lost forever. This can result in the loss of important family heirlooms, businesses or savings. Both the pursuit of justice and monetary concerns are valid reasons to go ahead with contesting a Will.
If you believe that your loved one’s Will has been the subject of coercive influence in any form, you should seek the counsel of a professional law team who will be able to build your case and bring it to justice in a court of law.