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What is undue influence?

Undue influence is a term used to describe the action of an individual who puts pressure on another person to do something that will hold a legal significance, such as forcing the individual to make him or her an heir in the person's will or changing the contents of a will to benefit the individual over another person. The accusation of undue influence is often considered one of the most common grounds for someone to contest or challenge a will.

In most cases, this type of contest is often accompanied by a capacity challenge, or rather, the person making the challenge believes that testator (person that made the will) was not of clear mind when he or she made the changes to the will and instead was talked into or forced to make the changes due to the individual's influence. This type of challenge is mostly seen when a person is elderly, in poor health, or thought to have a mental issue, such as dementia or Alzheimers.

While proving that someone used undue influence over the testator is a challenge, there are some signs that help to indicate that an individual is using undue influence.

These may include:

-- Urging the testator to change the language of the will to favor the individual over others named in the will

-- Changing the will in secret or having the changes made as quickly as possible

-- Heavily taking part in the drafting or creation of the will

-- Excluding or leaving out relatives and friends from having the opportunity to participate in meetings that involve an estate planning attorney

Since the burden of proof is on the person challenging the will, those who believe they have an undue influence problem may find it beneficial to learn more about their legal rights as they pertain to their particular legal situations.

Source: FindLaw, "Estate Planning and Undue Influence," Tanya Roth, accessed April. 06, 2015

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