A well-developed estate plan can protect assets and heirs from a lengthy probate process, litigation and even excess administration fees. When a loved one reaches a time in their life when they believe it is in everyone’s best interest to solidify or revise their plan, family members and other potential beneficiaries may come across suspicious behavior from an interested party. Perhaps you are suspicious of another person because they were not expected to be on a will or trust.
Whatever the case, understand that the term undue influence is not always easily defined and these cases can be quite complex. When a person influences another’s actions on behalf of their own motivations despite a fiduciary duty or confidential relationship, they may have committed undue influence. For example, the influencing person may have attempted to become a trustee or a beneficiary on a will by misusing their relationship with the influenced person.
Tips if you suspect undue influence
If you suspect someone has committed or is committing undue influence, consider the following:
- Say something: Speaking with the suspicious person and asking relevant questions may help set things straight. Perhaps there is a misunderstanding? Consider also spending time around your loved one and the suspicious person.
- Stay in contact with your loved one: Have you dismissed them recently? Is there a reason they may seek to replace you as a beneficiary? Undue influence may not always be the cause for a revision or unexpected will development.
- Keep an eye out: Depending on your relationship with your loved one, you may want to ask to have access to their accounts. If the influenced person is older in age, keeping an eye out for their assets and suspicious behavior may protect them from harm.
Your next step may be litigation or the contest of a trust or a will during probate.