A proper estate plan uses various mechanisms to promote a fair and equitable distribution of property to a decedent’s family. When a person waits to make such plans in a weakened state, such as during illness near the end of life, questions may arise about the validity of arrangements.
Families who know the telltale signs of undue influence can avoid them during estate planning to create legitimate arrangements or understand when to challenge a possibly fraudulent will.
Drastic changes shortly before death
Documented proof of the deceased’s wishes being dramatically different from the executed will may indicate tampering and undue influence. Families avoid confusion when the testator communicates wishes clearly. A person may wish to surprise heirs with a gift or avoid hurt feelings, but lack of communication can lead to challenges later. Obtaining independent advice and not acting in secrecy leaves little doubt about the will’s validity.
Adjustments during failing mental or physical health
When preparing the last will and testament, the testator can document their mental status to show they made the estate plan with full faculties. Con artists may attempt high-pressure sales of fraudulent schemes to bilk vulnerable senior citizens. Such dangers provide reason to involve the family and counselors in any inheritance decision.
Large gifts to a recent caretaker or significant other
Dying patients are often appreciative of the help of a personable caretaker, and the two can form a genuine bond. An outsized gift left to a caretaker gives rise to suspicion. Likewise, a new romantic partner receiving a majority of funds or property might allude to trickery or deception.
Undue influence can manifest in various other ways. The complicated execution of an estate should move families to exercise due diligence to create ironclad documents for inheritance.