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How do I know if a will was composed under undue influence?

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2018 | Probate Litigation

Some Michigan residents may look at a will composed by a parent or an elderly relative and believe something is not right about it. Perhaps the will cuts a family member out of the inheritance or specifies that someone outside the family, somebody you are not familiar with, will get a large share of the assets. If a will seems suspicious to you, there is the possibility that the will was composed under undue influence.

Undue influence, as the Huffington Post explains, consists of any number of methods to inappropriately influence a person to perform actions that the person would never do under normal circumstances. The purpose of the influence is often to enrich a manipulator at the expense of another person. In the case of a last will and testament, a person would exercise undue influence to gain wealth and property from the testor.

Generally, undue influence will occur if the testor is vulnerable in some fashion, a fact that a malicious party knows and will try to exploit. There are a number of circumstances under which a person could be vulnerable to manipulators.

The elderly are among the most vulnerable. Some seniors have lost their spouses and live alone, or have few friends left in their age group and are thus vulnerable to a new “friend” who may come along. The supposed new friend will win the trust of the vulnerable senior and seek to gain assets from the senior in a last will and testament through manipulation.

Additionally, some seniors are physically isolated and may come to depend on a caregiver who will in turn try to profit from the relationship. Elderly individuals who suffer from mental impairment can also be talked into handing over assets in a will or divulging personal financial information that the manipulator can use to his or her advantage.

Be aware that undue influence does not affect only the elderly. In families with acrimonious relationships, like feuding spouses or siblings, or blended families where there is disharmony between family members, you may find undue influence where a family member or an outside party can take advantage of the discord and sway a person by pretending to be on that person’s side. Anybody can be a victim of a manipulator who does not have that person’s best interests at heart.

A will that is composed under undue influence can be challenged as invalid and could be thrown out in court. Since undue influence comes in many different forms, this article should not be taken as legal advice. Its purpose is solely for educational purposes.