Estate planning tools such as wills or trusts outline the wishes and intentions of individuals in the event that anything happens to them. Unfortunately, there are sometimes instances that lead others to doubt the validity of the documents. One of the common reasons for contesting a will or trust is undue influence.
Linking undue influence to the will or trust’s creation
While undue influence is not easy to prove, many possible factors can show it existed when the testator or settlor created the will or trust. Here are some of the circumstances that could prove undue influence:
- The author was in a vulnerable position at the time they created the document. This vulnerability could be due to an illness, disability, old age, emotional distress or another condition that could make them susceptible to influence.
- The person who made an influence has authority over the testator or settlor. The influencer could be a family member, an adviser or anyone the victim trusts.
- The influencer has been using behavioral strategies to affect the victim’s decisions, such as using intimidation, controlling the victim’s daily interactions and lifestyle, and isolating the victim from other family members.
- The will or trust poses unfair results for the testator or settlor.
- Other estate planning documents do not match the intent of the will or trust.
These are all types of circumstantial evidence that could possibly indicate undue influence on the creation of the will or trust. Since a direct connection can be challenging to establish, the courts consider these circumstantial factors.
The act of contesting an estate planning document is an option to protect the rights of the estate owner, their heirs and beneficiaries. If you have a justifiable reason to suspect undue influence, it is best to collect proof to establish a stronger case with the court.