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4 possible signs of undue influence in estate planning

Even though death is a part of life, dealing with the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming. If you believe your loved one’s will does not accurately reflect his or her wishes, though, you may be in for additional heartache. You may also be at risk of losing your fair share of the estate. 

Provided you have legal standing to contest the will, North Dakota’s probate courts allow you to present evidence of undue influence. Generally, undue influence occurs when someone puts impermissible pressure on the person drafting the will. As you may suspect, the consequences of undue influence can be extreme. Here are four possible signs undue influence may be present in your loved one’s will: 

1. Someone plays a critical role in drafting the will 

While as many as half of Americans have no will, creating one is an excellent way to plan for the future. There is nothing wrong with having someone help with the drafting of a will. In fact, tapping into a lawyer’s expertise may be an effective strategy for avoiding problems. Still, if someone participates heavily in the estate planning process, he or she may have undue influence over your loved one. 

2. Someone requests changes to the will 

After writing a will, individuals sometimes circulate the document to their heirs and other interested individuals. While accepting feedback may help refine the language of the document, you do not want someone to change your loved one’s intentions. If someone does, you may have a valid argument for challenging the will’s validity. 

3. Someone has a special relationship 

Everyone develops different relationships over the course of a lifetime. If your loved one has an important relationship, he or she may ask for advice in drafting the will. While input may help to both make the document stronger and plan for long-term care, an unscrupulous individual may cross the line and enter into undue influence territory. 

4. Someone keeps others out of the process 

Often, creating a will requires input from friends, family members and others. If someone refuses to let interested individuals participate in estate planning, he or she may be trying to exert undue influence over the process. This may make challenging the will easier for you. 

You may never have to worry about attacking the validity of a loved one’s will in probate court. If you think the will does not reflect your loved one’s true wishes, though, you may have a duty to object. By watching for the signs of undue influence, you can likely better position yourself to achieve an acceptable resolution.

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