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Do you think undue influence changed your parent's last will?

Most parents have a driving and powerful desire to provide for their children and even grandchildren. Wanting to see their lineage succeed is a natural impulse.

Some parents go so far as to discuss those desires with their children as they grow older. In fact, those uncomfortable discussions about the intended use for various household assets are often important for gearing children for the difficult reality of handling their parents' estate in the future.

However, things don't always go as planned. When an older parent remarries, you may feel relief that they have companionship. You may also worry about the motives of your new stepparent, particularly if there is a significant age gap. When your parent dies, if the will differs substantially from their long-stated intended legacy, you may have to explore how much influence your stepparent exerted on the creation of the new will.

Did your stepparent serve as caregiver or gatekeeper?

A younger spouse can be a great comfort when your health begins to fail. They can provide you with the care and companionship that you may not have received otherwise. However, some people leverage their position as caregiver to manipulate and influence the decisions of their spouse. Everything from talking badly about other family members to pontificating on previous hardships could influence your parent to change their intended legacy.

Sometimes, people aren't even that subtle. They may overtly abuse and isolate their spouse until they secure the changes to the will they desire. They may go so far as to obfuscate the truth by denying family members access and then claiming that no one has come to visit.

If you have any documentation that your stepparent was attempting to negatively impact your relationship with your parent or influence their estate planning, that could be grounds for claims of undue influence.

What happens if the courts agree that your stepparents influenced the will?

You may find yourself wondering what will happen in the event that you can demonstrate to the courts that your stepparent influenced your parents into altering their will for personal benefit. The truth is that the final outcome will largely be at the discretion of the probate courts.

In some scenarios, the judge may choose to revert back to an older version of the last will. Other times, they may dismiss the estate plan in its entirety and handle the estate in probate as though your loved one had died intestate or without a will.

There are many variables at play here, so it would be a wise decision to sit down with an attorney who has experience in Illinois probate litigation to determine if you have grounds for challenging the will of a parent.

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