Published 24 Oct 2017
Author: David Cossalter
Challenging a loved one's will is never an easy decision. Inheritance disputes can take months or even years to resolve, as well as cause tension among family members at an already emotional time.
Nevertheless, people choose to contest or challenge a will for various reasons. They may feel they have not received adequate provisions from the estate, or do not believe the deceased had the testamentary capacity to write a will.
But what are your options if you suspect your loved one was pressured into writing a will or changing an existing one? You may be particularly concerned if the deceased was susceptible to coercion due to dementia, learning disabilities or other conditions that left them vulnerable.
The good news is that the courts can deem a will invalid if you can show the person who wrote it faced undue influence; the bad news is that this is often difficult to prove.
What are the signs of undue influence?
The obvious challenge of proving undue influence is that the deceased isn't available to testify. You may therefore be reliant on other witnesses, such as those who were present when the will was written.
So what are the warning signs?
1. Key beneficiaries are left out of the will
Individuals writing a will are expected to provide for the most important people in their life, including spouses and children.
If the deceased failed to include his or her closest family members in the will, they may have faced pressure to leave assets to someone else.
2. The will is different from spoken intentions
Most people discuss their final wishes with friends and relatives before they die. Specific details may be lacking, but beneficiaries often have a vague idea of their loved one's intentions.
A will that is significantly different to what the deceased said about their estate planning while alive is a cause for concern.
3. A single beneficiary receives most or all of the estate
People who coerce others into writing or changing a will typically do so for selfish reasons, meaning they will likely pressure the testator into leaving them as much of the estate as possible.
You may be especially suspicious if the beneficiary is a stranger or someone who was not in the deceased's life for very long preceding their death, such as a temporary carer or neighbour.
Seeking help from contesting will lawyers
Claiming that someone has pressured your loved one into making decisions about their estate is a big accusation.
If you feel this is the case, you should contact an experienced law firm to investigate your suspicions and see whether or not you should pursue a dispute.
Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyer for more information.