How can undue influence be used to contest a will?

Date: Sep 30, 2014

There are many different reasons for people to contest a will, from not receiving adequate provision to having unfair conditions placed on an inheritance.

While these reasons are contained within a will, it is also possible to argue that the will itself does not adequately reflect the wishes of the deceased. In this case, it is possible to argue that an estate has been made under undue influence from a third party or that the conditions were suspicious.

Undue influence or suspicious circumstances can be a difficult thing to prove though, given that you are contesting the conditions which the will was drafted under. To help here is what you need to know about contesting a will on these grounds.

Suspicious circumstances

One way in which a will can be contested is if the document was drafted under conditions that were suspicious. For example, if a new will has been created that removes provisions from a beneficiary of a previous will, there may be grounds to contest. This will only be successful if the change has been made without reason or if no estrangement occurred between the deceased and the former beneficiary.

Similarly, if a new individual suddenly becomes a beneficiary in a new will, it may be possible to prove that this constitutes a suspicious circumstance. For example, if it can be proven that the new beneficiary took a role in preparing the will, or was directly controlling the deceased at the time, it may be possible to contest the will.

Undue influence

Undue influence can be even harder to prove than suspicious circumstances, as the plaintiff must prove to the court that, had the deceased been asked, they would have stated that the will did not reflect their wishes.

Often undue influence can occur in the final days or hours of a person's life, when their decision-making may easily be swayed by a strong personality. In this situation, it may be possible to argue that a pushy voice may have influenced the decision-making of the deceased in a way which contravenes their wishes.

Like suspicious circumstances, it can be difficult to prove undue influence unless there was a witness to the act. In these cases, the court will not infer undue influence, which makes it important to have witnesses that can back up any claims.

If you would like to contest a will on the grounds of suspicious circumstances or undue influence, make sure you talk to a contesting wills lawyer. They will be able to advise on the specific requirements of your case and guide you through the process of contesting a will.