Estate planning is a deeply personal process in which someone must think about their life and their loved ones to make decisions about who will inherit from their estate when they die. Such personal decisions should be a reflection of someone’s values and closest bonds.
Unfortunately, there are many people who feel entitled to a specific inheritance and who think nothing of being abusive and inappropriate to secure what they want. If you think that the estate plan left by your loved one does not accurately reflect their personal preferences, you may believe that someone exerted undue influence on them when they created or updated their documents.
What are the most common warning signs of undue influence?
Late-in-life estate plan changes
It is common for people to make changes to their estate planning documents when their family situation, personal health or financial circumstances change. Some people will continue making adjustments to their estate planning documents well into their retirement years.
However, when someone has not made a habit of frequently adjusting their documents but makes an unexpected and strange change in the last years of their life, that could be a sign that someone else applied pressure or forced them to make those changes.
Adjustments that benefit one person
Did your parents disinherit all of their children but one? Did your only surviving parents rely on their new spouse as a caregiver in their golden years and then leave everything solely to your new stepparent?
Especially when the individual who is the primary beneficiary of the questionable changes was in a role of personal authority over the deceased, your family may have reason to suspect that undue influence contributed to the changes.
An obvious and questionable break in your relationship
One of the ways that caregivers, children and spouses can manipulate older adults is through interference in their other relationships. If a family member or professional caregiver refused to connect your phone calls or grant you access to your loved one’s home, those actions may have been part of a bigger strategy to make you look like you did not care.
That interruption in your relationship combined with pressure applied by the caregiver may have been the reason that your loved one decided to eliminate your inheritance or substantially diminish it.
If the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s estate give you reason to suspect undue influence, then initiating probate litigation could be a smart choice for you and other beneficiaries who found themselves disinherited. Learning more about common sources of probate litigation can help you understand when you have grounds to take legal action.