After the death of a loved one, heirs and beneficiaries will face the task of settling the estate of the deceased. This typically means distributing the estate assets according to the terms of the will once other steps in the probate process are complete. However, distributing assets can be difficult when there are questions over the validity of the will. It is possible that certain factors, such as undue influence, impacted the most current version of a will.
Undue influence happens when a person uses a relationship as a way to manipulate decisions made by another person. In estate planning, undue influence can result in a person changing his or her will or creating a will that favors the person attempting to influence the process. Unfortunately, you may not realize that this happened until after your loved one passes away. If you suspect undue influence, you will benefit from learning about the specific options available to you.
Understanding the problem of undue influence
Undue influence is more likely in situations where one person has power over another, possibly holding a position of trust. This may be common when a person has diminished capacity due to illness, memory problems or other factors. For example, your loved one may have experienced some type of suggestion, manipulation or insinuation that affected decisions related to his or her will. This may have happened because of the influence of a caretaker, loved one or other interested party, and it can have significant financial implications for rightful heirs.
If you suspect undue influence or manipulation in the terms of your loved one’s estate plan, you may have grounds to contest the will. This could be an appropriate course of action if you noticed the will changed suddenly, or the terms of the will seem contrary to what you knew about the wishes of your loved one. Undue influence may also be possible if a named beneficiary was present with the decedent as he or she changed or created the will.
Your options for fighting back
Contesting a will can be a complex process, but it may be the best course of action for your family. An assessment of the case, including the circumstances in which you suspect the will was changed, can reveal the legal options available to you. This is a way for you to preserve the interests of your Pennsylvania family and fight for justice after your loved one experienced undue influence from another person.