When it comes time for one generation to pass on an estate to the next through a will, conflicts often arise over the validity of the document. This is particularly true when one beneficiary believes that another beneficiary used their influence on the will's creator to better their position. Many families have seen long-suffering tensions between siblings, parents, and other family members erupt after the reading of a will makes it clear that one party benefits unfairly from the will's terms.
Of course, without a strong legal strategy to reach a fair resolution, every party involved in this kind of conflict may lose out in the end, draining the resources they are fighting to control through legal expenses and mismanagement of valuable assets. If you believe that you have grounds to challenge a will because someone else used undue influence to steer the will's terms, make sure to use the legal tools and guidance around you to keep your rights and priorities secure before it is too late.
What qualifies as undue influence?
The term "undue influence" may apply to many types of behavior, so it is important to carefully examine the specifics of your own circumstances to judge whether anyone acted unethically in the creation of the will in question. In general, a person who places pressure on the creator of a will to sign a will with terms that benefit that person may use undue influence. Of course, this is not always easy to identify and prove, so careful examination of the facts is crucial.
The simple fact of a will benefiting one beneficiary more than others is not typically grounds for challenge. Will creators commonly use their own judgment when creating wills, and do not always intend equal or equitable distribution of their estate. For instance, if a parent has three children and is cut off from one of them, then they may not leave an equal portion to that child because that is their wish. Regardless of the interpersonal issues at hand and the strain it may place on the surviving family, this is often well within the law.
It is wise to identify any specific actions that the offending party used to influence the creation or amendment of a will. Overt examples of undue influence may include:
- Threats of punishment or abuse
- Emotional manipulation
- Refusing to provide food, medication or other necessities
- Orchestration of the will creator's relationships with other beneficiaries
- Keeping the will creator isolated and dependent
Protecting your priorities
These issues are not simple to resolve, so you must have a strong grasp on the grounds for allegations of undue influence, as well as the results that you hope to achieve. For the sake of the ones you love and the memory of the creator of the will you wish to challenge, create a sturdy legal strategy to secure your rights. Ensure that you have the tools you need to resolve this frustrating conflict in a fair and equitable manner.