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What Is Undue Influence and How Do I Prove It?

 Posted on January 16, 2023 in Wills

CA estate lawyerWhen a person passes away, it is not uncommon for heirs, beneficiaries, family members, or other interested parties to become suspicious of the decedent’s estate planning decisions. In some cases, a deceased person may have been subject to undue influence just before their passing—an act that can invalidate the will and any other affected estate planning documents. But what is undue influence? And how can you prove that your loved one was unduly influenced? Let's find out.

Understanding Undue Influence

In the realm of estate planning, undue influence refers to when someone manipulates another person into making decisions they would not normally make. This manipulation can be emotional, psychological, physical, or financial. It often occurs in instances where an elderly person or someone who is not mentally sound is taken advantage of by another party who wishes to gain control over their estate. In many cases, the victim may not even understand the implications of the decision they are making until after they have signed the document. If the person is manipulated, forced, or tricked into adding or removing certain provisions or beneficiaries, challenging the document could lead to the whole thing being invalidated by the court.

It is important to understand that the law allows for a spouse, family members, and loved ones to offer their input when a person is creating their estate plan. This is not usually considered undue influence, provided that such input takes the form of reasonable opinions, conversations, and calculations. If, however, a caretaker or a single family member cuts the person off from other family and friends or threatens to withhold care, undue influence could be an issue.

Proving Undue Influence

If you have concerns that your loved one was unduly influenced when creating their will or any other estate planning document, there are a few steps you should take. First and foremost, look for inconsistencies between different versions of the same document. If there have been multiple revisions made in a short period of time that do not make sense in terms of the original intent of your loved one’s estate plan, this could indicate that someone was exerting undue influence on them during this time period.

Additionally, look for any evidence that someone else had access to your loved one's accounts or finances without their knowledge or permission. This could also be an indication that someone was exerting undue influence on your loved one without them realizing it at the time. Finally, review any documents related to any suspicious transactions and compare them to previous versions of your loved one's will and other estate planning documents. If there are major discrepancies between them, it could point toward potential undue influence taking place at some point prior to death.

Work With a California Contested Documents Attorney

Undue influence is a serious matter and should never be taken lightly. If you believe that someone close to you may have been coerced into changing their will or other estate planning documents prior to their passing, contact California will contest lawyer David Schechet today. Call 800-282-4731 to get the help you need in protecting your loved one’s final wishes.


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