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Undue influence and other issues could impact a will’s validity

On Behalf of | Jan 25, 2024 | Probate & Estate Litigation |

People who create a will do so with the intention of leaving their property to their chosen beneficiaries. When the time comes for probate and the will is finally revealed, some would-be beneficiaries might be unhappy with the testator’s choices.

Often, there is nothing they can reasonably do about it. In others, there were issues with the will’s construction with the possibility that the testator was suffering from incapacity or another person who might have gotten a significant portion of the estate exerted undue influence on them. Knowing the law for contesting the will is vital before moving forward with a case.

Did the testator have capacity to write a will?

According to state law, the testator must have sufficient capacity to write the will. That means the will expresses their sincere desire to dispose of the property in the way they did. If they want to leave their property to charity, they can do that; if they want to omit family members or people who believe they should be beneficiaries, they can do that as well.

If the person has incapacity to contract, they could still have the capacity to write a valid will. Those who have been clinically diagnosed as being insane could also write a will if they do so during times in which they are deemed lucid. A person who is obsessive (a monomaniac) can write a valid will if it is not connected to their mental issues. The wishes expressed in the will must be viewed as unaffected by their insanity or monomania.

Undue influence can also be cause to contest a will

The will must be done based on the testator’s volition. If they were the victim of fraud, another person played on their fears, affections or sympathies and that led them to make decisions regarding the will they might not have made, then the will could be challenged based on undue influence.

Other reasons that could spur a claim of undue influence include misrepresentation, getting the person to make certain decisions under duress or clearly tilting their choices in the direction of the person who is alleged to have exerted undue influence.

Assessing a will and the testator’s intent can be difficult

People who are displeased with what they did or did not receive as part of a will could question whether the testator meant to write it in the way they did. There are many cases of a person taking advantage of an elderly or infirm loved one to try and maximize what they receive as part of their estate plan.

In these instances, it is imperative to seek proof as to what happened and take the necessary steps to contest the will. This is true whether the testator’s capacity is in question or there was the possibility of undue influence.