Determining Undue Influence In Estate Planning

When you have an elderly or ill loved one and their will all of a sudden changes to reflect new information that seems out of character, you may be skeptical. This skepticism is good to have because experienced attorneys have seen many people’s wills changed because of undue influence. Those who are more at-risk than others (people with mental incapacities or people who are much older, for example) may find themselves in a situation where they are more vulnerable than they wish. If you believe your elderly loved one has become the victim of elder abuse because someone else has convinced them to change their will, speak with an attorney as soon as possible. 

Suspecting Undue Influence

You may be wondering what this term means. If you suspect undue influence, can you make any changes to the will after your loved one has passed away and the will has already gone into effect? Yes, it is possible and this is where it is most helpful to have an attorney on your side when you contest the will in probate court. There are a few factors that make up undue influence that an attorney will look for when examining the changed will:

  • The will simply does not make sense. If your loved one clearly favored or was close to certain family members and left them out of the will while giving assets to others with no explanation, this could be a sign of undue influence. 
  • The person who seems to be getting more favors from the will is the one who had a confidential relationship with the will-maker. 
  • Your loved one who was making their will or changing their will was much older or had recently become ill and was more susceptible to someone convincing them to make certain changes that they otherwise would not have made. 

Is any influence undue influence?

No, and it is your attorney’s job to help show that the influence was “undue influence” instead of “simple influence.” So, if your grandparent was leaving their assets to their grandchildren and one grandchild kept telling your grandparent that certain people should be cut out of the will, this is not undue influence. It is a type of influence, but there is nothing necessarily wrong with this other than it causes familial problems. If, on the other hand, this particular grandchild began exclusively taking care of your grandparent, encouraged him or her to pull away from the rest of the family, and got him or her to write a will or change his will for their benefit, this is when we would see the undue influence. 

If you believe that your ill or elderly loved one was the victim of undue influence while creating or changing their will, please contact a wills and trusts lawyer, like a wills and trusts lawyer in Sacramento, CA. He or she will help get you what your loved one wanted you to have in the first place. 



Thanks to Yee Law Group, PC for their insight into determining undue influence in estate planning.