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Undue influence: You can challenge a will

Undue influence is a term that refers to actions that influenced a person to change a will or other document against their free will or due to manipulation. Undue influence is one of a few reasons why people enter into will contests.

Imagine that your mother or father had already designated that you'd receive the family home in their will. You were established as the only beneficiary of their assets. Somehow, prior to their death, that changed. Now, it's an aide at the nursing home who has been willed everything.

Undue influence may be at play, and a will contest is something you should consider. There are a few factors that may be considered by the judge when you present your case. These factors include:

  • The length of the relationship between the decedent and the beneficiary or beneficiaries
  • Whether or not the new beneficiary had a chance to manipulate or otherwise make the individual change their will
  • Your loved one's mental health and ability to make decisions on their own
  • The parties involved in changing the will

In many cases, undue influence happens when the elderly cannot recognize what they're doing. For example, your mother or father may have Alzheimer's disease and be unable to understand that they're changing a legal document. They also may be unable to do so legally due to incompetence, but depending on how the will is altered, that will need to be contested directly.

How can you show that your loved one did not want to or should not have changed their will?

If it is a matter of undue influence, you should gather as much information as you can about the person or people who influenced your loved one as well as your loved one's state of mind at the time of the new will's creation. This can take some work and usually requires medical information as well as witness statements from nurses or others who worked with your loved one in the nursing home or assisted-living facility.

It's worth the effort to obtain the medical diagnosis and to be able to show if your loved one suffered from Alzheimer's disease or other illnesses that could affect their ability to make decisions. If you can prove it, then the new will may be thrown out, and an older version from a time when they had the mental capacity to sign legal documents will be used.

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