Most wills go through probate without any major hitches — and challenging a will isn’t exactly easy. So why does a will ever get challenged? Usually, there’s far more to the situation than an unhappy heir or two. One of the most common reasons for challenging a will is the belief that it doesn’t really reflect the testator’s true desires.
When a testator’s will seems to reflect someone else’s desires more than their own, it may be a case of that someone (usually a family member, friend or caretaker) exerting unfair pressure or “undue influence” over the testator to get what they want.
What are some signs that a testator’s final will should be contested over undue influence? Consider these:
- The testator had previous wills that were more equitable. If the current will is drastically different than previous versions, and there’s no obvious explanation for the changes, that’s often a sign that someone was manipulating things behind the scenes.
- The testator was isolated when they wrote the will. When someone who is old or sick feels dependent on a specific caretaker, they may be afraid not to comply with their demands about an estate. Or, someone with dementia may come to believe anything their trusted caretaker tells them — no matter how untrue — about their potential heirs.
- The estate heavily favors one person. If a parent always treated their children equally in life, there’s no reason to believe that their will would reflect any different attitude. When it leaves the bulk of an estate to just one heir, that’s a good reason to ask questions.
With estate disputes, it’s important to act quickly. If you wait until assets have been disbursed, it can be very difficult to reclaim them. Talk to an experienced advocate about your situation as soon as you suspect a problem with someone’s will.