Blended families are quite common. Both because of divorce and death, many families find themselves growing through the addition of stepparents and stepsiblings. These new members to your family can be a great source of joy in many cases. Unfortunately, they can also lead to significant conflict.
Children may have concerns about the intentions of a stepparent or new romantic partner, particularly if there is a significant gap in age or personal wealth between the two parties. A younger individual interested in an older, much wealthier, adult could have financial motives for the relationship.
Most of the time, children find that their concerns about a stepparent are unnecessary. When their parent passes on, their legacy still reflects the relationships they valued for the duration of their life. However, in some cases, a marriage that only lasted a few years ends up impacting the legacy someone developed over the course of an entire life.
Undue influence by a spouse can impact the whole family
Undue influence by a manipulative stepparent can have devastating consequences for your family. Understanding what constitutes undue influence can help you determine if you have grounds to challenge a last will that favors your stepparent.
Undue influence involves one party intentionally manipulating another or pressuring them into certain decisions or behaviors. Undue influence can look like many different things depending on the circumstances and your family.
For a bedridden but mentally acute adult, undue influence could involve intentionally isolating someone and leaving them to believe that their children abandoned them. In reality, the stepparent is refusing to connect phone calls or allow visitors in the house.
Undue influence can also look like someone slowly developing a sad story and manipulating your loved ones' compassion to their benefit. This can often happen both with new spouses and with caregivers, such as hospice nurses. Instead of remaining professional, they attempt to play on the sympathies of the person they provide care for.
Spouses serving as caretakers may have too much power
When a new spouse winds up fulfilling the obligations of a caretaker, that dynamic can profoundly influence the power they have over their spouse. Anyone completely at the mercy of another person is likely to consider how to keep that other person happy at all costs. Making changes to a last will to benefit a manipulative spouse is a tragically common practice.
Whether out of concern for facing neglect or needing to deal with their declining health, vulnerable older adults can find themselves abused and manipulated into changing their planned legacy to benefit someone who is using or abusing them.
If you have any reason to believe that undue influence has played a role in a parent's will, you should speak with an experienced probate litigation attorney. Documentation, including previous forms of the will, could help you build a case for undue influence. The courts may alter the terms of the will or even revert the estate plan to a previous form.