One of the grounds on which you can bring a will contest is undue influence. It means someone has used their position to persuade a person to change or make a will in a certain way leading to inequity.
We are all influenced by other people all the time, yet sometimes someone oversteps the mark for their own benefit.
How does California define undue influence?
California lawmakers have tried to clarify the definition. The state code gives 4 ways by which a court can measure whether there has been undue influence:
- The victim was vulnerable: If the alleged victim is a high-flying businesswoman still making excellent daily decisions, you would have difficulty persuading a court someone could unduly influence her. Mental illness, old age and isolation are the sorts of things that leave someone open to undue influence.
- The perpetrator had authority: This does not need to be a legally given authority, such as guardianship, but a court needs to believe that the person had enough influence over the victim to do it. Family members who spend a lot of time with a person, caregivers or spiritual gurus are the sorts of people who tend to get accused.
- There is evidence of how they did it: You need to show how the person you are accusing used undue influence. For example, did they alter the victim’s medication or cut them off from others to make them easier to persuade?
- The result is unfair: The changes to the will need to have a consequence that harms someone else, usually financially. So, if you were a beneficiary of the will and now you are not, you could say the change is inequitable toward you.
If you believe you can prove undue influence, it is crucial to understand more about how a will contest works. Bringing one will not be easy, yet it may be essential to ensure the will reflects your loved one’s true intentions.