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3 signs a will has been affected by undue influence

One of the best things parents can do for their children and loved ones is to have in place a will that clearly and accurately documents their wishes. Creating a will can ensure that grieving loved ones are not put in a position to make difficult decisions or fight each other for assets, authority or recognition.

However, a person can be coerced, tricked or threatened into changing his or her will for someone else's benefit. Elderly people struggling with dementia or other serious medical problems are especially vulnerable to this type of influence, so it is crucial that children and other concerned parties be aware of the signs of undue influence so they can take the necessary actions, including contesting a will.

Below are some potential red flags to look out for when reading or reviewing a will.

  1. It has been drastically changed. If it is very different from a previous version, it can be a good idea to ask why that is. Has something else changed, like family relationships or financial resources? If the changes seem drastic and strange, more investigation will be crucial. 
  2. It goes against what you know to be true about a loved one. Were charitable organizations your loved one contributed to regularly left out of the will?  Did he or she lift restrictions on trust payouts despite a well-known belief that young people cannot manage large sums of money? If something seems out of character, it could reflect someone else's interests and not your loved one's interests.
  3. It benefits someone you've never met. Wills can be adjusted to include caregivers and others who develop a bond with someone in their final weeks, months or years. However, if your loved one never mentioned someone like this but changed a will in that person's favor, it can be a good idea to scrutinize the relationship and motivations.

These are just a few signs that someone has been unlawfully persuaded to change their will. If you believe that these or other elements point to undue influence, it can be crucial that you consult an attorney and speak up. Doing so can lead to invalidation of a will and preservation of someone's true wishes.

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