Dealing with the death of a loved one may prove challenging, especially once probate opens. When the estate plan becomes common knowledge and the last wishes heard, you may suspect something is wrong.
One of the most common issues facing grieving families in court is a sudden change in what they believed the plan would say. Some signs may point to someone else exerting control over your loved one and making them change their will. If this is the case, you may have a case to challenge the estate. First, however, you need to recognize the signs.
What is undue influence?
As a loved one ages, he or she may become vulnerable to manipulation. It may come in many forms, but this person often acts as a friend or ally. In some cases, it also happens with family members who have remained estranged and then come back into the fold as your aging relative becomes less independent. Regardless of how it occurs, undue influence happens when a dominant person convinces a susceptible one to change his or her mind about providing for family members to divert funds to the manipulator instead.
What can a judge do?
If you suspect your loved one was a victim of undue influence, you should intervene in the probate process. This means filing a claim to contest the will. Proving undue influence may come down to showing proof that the person benefiting the most from the estate did something to cause a shift in the deceased’s plans. To prove this, you may have to present evidence of prior wills and anything you can show that the beneficiary fostered a closeness with the deceased that enabled the manipulation and change.
Court action is not something you want to do during such a difficult time, but it may become necessary to rectify estate problems.