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Undue influence in estate planning

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2023 | Estate Planning |

It can be hard for California families to cope with the loss of a loved one. Added to their grief are the questions they might have if their loved one has made changes to their estate plan that seem exceptionally out of character.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to be taken advantage of in their final days. If a person who’s in a position of power and trust manipulates or convinces the dying person to change their will, it could be considered undue influence.

What is undue influence?

Undue influence is when the court deems that a person has made changes to their estate plan due to the coercion or pressure of a person. It’s important to note that the changes are ones that the person would not have made without that undue influence.

If the court deems that the person was coerced into changing their estate plan, then they can order that a previous version of the will be adhered to.

Recognizing undue influence

One of the biggest signs that an estate plan has been modified as a result of undue influence is if a direct heir or family member is bypassed as a beneficiary. For example, if a new romantic partner inherits something of value over the person’s children or siblings, the court would consider that a red flag.

Undue influence can be hard to recognize before the person’s death. The family may notice that a person is getting suspiciously close to their loved one in their final days, or that their loved one is making out-of-character decisions. These are all things that can be brought forward, and the burden of proof is on the family.