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What is undue influence in estate planning?

There are numerous estate planning tools that can be used for different purposes. For example, a will can name individuals who you want to inherit your assets upon your death. Trusts can be used for several purposes, such as donating to charity or setting up a college fund for your children.

The one thing that all estate planning documents have in common is that they must represent the true wishes of the person drafting them. The creator must fully comprehend the terms of each document and how they will be implemented.

Undue influence occurs when a party other than the creator attempts to force their own interests into the estate planning documents of another. Outlined below are a few examples of how this might occur.

Physical threats

In serious cases, it’s possible that someone uses violence or the threat of violence to convince someone to adjust their estate planning documents. For example, someone might threaten violence against family members if they are not included in the will or receive a larger share of the inheritance.

Psychological coercion

It’s far more likely that someone attempts to have someone alter an estate plan to favor them by applying emotional or psychological pressure.

Clearly, most people would see right through such techniques, so proving that someone was vulnerable or incapable of understanding what was going on may be key for anyone seeking to contest the will on these grounds.

If you are unsure whether a deceased person’s will represents their true wishes, it will benefit you to get legal guidance as to what, if any steps you should take.

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