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3 questions to ask if you suspect undue influence in a will

Even though they lead a healthy and active lifestyle, your parents will not live forever. Still, they likely want to have some control over what happens to their assets after they are gone. A well-written will is a good way to achieve this goal.

In simple terms, a will is a legally binding document that dictates the distribution of property. For a will to be valid, though, its writer must have acted on his or her own free will. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, an interested individual may try to supplant his or her wishes over those of the will’s author. Known as undue influence, this type of behavior is usually grounds to contest the validity of the will.

Here are three questions you can ask to determine if your mother or father was under undue influence when drafting a will:

1. Does your parent have a new relationship?

As individuals age, they sometimes experience loneliness. If your parent has a new relationship, you must be wary about the potential for undue influence. This is especially true if your mother or father reworks a will to include the new caregiver, friend or relative in his or her estate plan at the disadvantage of other traditional beneficiaries.

2. Have there been drastic changes?

If your parent has had an estate plan for years, he or she may be comfortable with its provisions. While periodically reviewing and updating a will is a good idea, drastic changes may be a sign of undue influence.

3. Has your parent stopped communicating?

Hijacking a will is not necessarily easy. If someone wants to work his or her way into your parent’s estate plan, isolation may be critical. Therefore, if your loved one stops communicating with you, you may want to check to see if the will has changed.

Like other parts of a comprehensive estate plan, wills should foster both certainty and peace of mind. Nonetheless, if your parent was under undue influence when drafting a will, the document may not reflect his or her true wishes. Knowing how to uncover undue influence is key to protecting both your parent and his or her assets.

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