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Home » Firm News » The effects of undue influence on the validity of a will

Drafting a will in New Jersey is responsible and provides an easier path through the probate process. When someone dies and the will triggers, heirs and beneficiaries may find themselves surprised by the outcome.

Upon the opening of probate, family members may not receive notice, signifying they do not appear in the will. If this is a surprise, especially if they did prior, the process may require challenging the will’s validity. Depending on the facts, undue influence over the decedent may play a role in a will’s directives changing.

Court involvement in will administration

A person who changes a will may have several reasons for doing so. The court usually believes the decedent was of “sound mind and body” when drafting the will unless there is a reason for concern. If prior heirs, such as close family members, find themselves cut out after death, they may want to raise concerns with the court. Ousted heirs have to convince the court that the will’s validity deserves a second look, especially if evidence of undue influence exists.

Undue influence evidence

Proving to the court that the decedent changed the will under suspicious circumstances may come down to who now receives the bulk of the estate. For example, your father provided a copy of his will, leaving the estate in equal shares to you and your siblings. Soon after this, he began dating a woman. Upon his death fewer than six months later, you learn he changed the will, leaving her everything. The circumstances of the will now seem suspicious. Changing the scenario to a caretaker, perhaps an at-home nurse, caring for your ailing father also raises a red flag to the family and the court.

Evidence of wrongdoing may void a will, making an earlier version valid. You may want to speak with an attorney if you suspect undue influence altered a family member’s wishes.