When should you suspect ‘undue influence’ with a will?

Your mom’s death wasn’t exactly unexpected, but it still hit you hard. Then you found out that you were virtually cut out of her will. Aside from some small mementos, almost everything was left to your sibling

Is it unfair? Without a doubt. Did something underhanded go on? Possibly. If your mother always treated you and your sibling equally before, it’s understandable to question why her will doesn’t reflect that.

Sometimes an older person can become subject to what’s called “undue influence” by a family member, caregiver, neighbor or friend. That means that their free will to make decisions about the disposition of their estate was somehow subverted through coercion, manipulation, intimidation or fraud.

What are some of the signs that your sibling may have “helped” your mother’s will take its final form? Consider these:

  • The current will, which is heavily slanted in your sibling’s favor, replaces a previous will in which the assets were much more evenly divided.
  • Your sibling was the only person who knew that the new will existed and had it in their possession prior to your mother’s death.
  • Your sibling chose the attorney that was used, accompanied your mother to the office or provided the witnesses that were used at its execution.
  • Your sibling had increasingly isolated your mother before her death and assumed all of the caregiver’s duties — despite offers of help.
  • Your mother suffered from dementia or severe physical illness prior to her death that made her especially dependent on your sibling’s assistance.

If you suspect that your parent’s will doesn’t match their intentions, it’s important to take action quickly. If you wait too long to speak to an attorney, the opportunity to stop the assets from being dissipated can be lost.