Losing a loved one is never easy. It can get harder when their will is read, and it is nothing like you expected. You may have even known the contents of an earlier will, but the final one is a far cry from the one you saw. This situation could be the result of someone having undue influence over the deceased.
When it comes to probate matters, undue influence involves a trusted person in the life of the testator exerting pressure on them to change their will while they were alive. According to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, “there must be imprisonment of the body or mind, fraud, or threats, or misrepresentations, or circumvention, or inordinate flattery or physical or moral coercion” that results in someone having no free agency. This situation is most common when an older adult begins to lose their full mental capacity and relies on those around them for help. Unfortunately, this can lead to unscrupulous family members or friends taking advantage of them.
If you believe undue influence was involved, you can contest a will, and should. Someone may have unethically manipulated a person you loved for their benefit.
Signs of undue influence
There are ways to identify that someone abused the trust afforded to them by the deceased. Some good things to examine are:
- Access: Did the person you believe influenced your loved one spend a lot of time with them? Having constant access, as a caretaker or otherwise, while denying others the ability to see an elderly adult is a red flag.
- Mental capacity: If your loved one suffered from diminished critical thinking skills, it might have opened an opportunity for someone to exploit them. This can be a result of old age or health conditions such as dementia.
- Sudden change of will: A will being changed very late in life should raise suspicion. This is especially true if the changes seem out of character.
If signs like these are present and you are suspicious someone took advantage of your loved one, it may be worth challenging the will in court.