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August 22, 2023

Unraveling Undue Influence: Last-Minute Estate Plan Changes

Following the death of a loved one, grieving families could feel blindsided if the deceased made last-minute changes to their estate plan. In some cases, these last-minute changes can disrupt decades of financial planning and expectations.

Many last-minute changes to estate plans are valid, and it is important to understand that just because a change is shocking or surprising to loved ones doesn’t mean it’s invalid. However, if evidence exists that undue influence is a factor, last-minute changes can be reversed.

Whether you’re benefiting or disadvantaged by a last-minute change to an estate plan, here’s what you need to know:

What Is Undue Influence?

Undue influence is a legal term that applies when one person uses their position of power or control over another person to coerce them into making decisions that favor the person in the position of power rather than the influenced person’s interests.

There are several instances in which last-minute amendments to an estate plan may be considered invalid due to undue influence:

  • When a physical or mental disability or illness of the party making the changes directly affects their ability to make decisions and understand their actions.
  • When one party has a fiduciary relationship with another, such as doctor-patient confidentiality or attorney-client privilege, and uses this relationship of trust and confidence to gain control over the other’s decisions.
  • When a family member, friend, or other trusted individual is in a position of power over another and uses that influence to pressure them into making changes to an estate plan.

What Can I Do About Undue Influence?

A qualified estate planning attorney can build a strong case with evidence demonstrating why they believe the change was invalid. A qualified attorney can also help gather the evidence to support the estate plan and prevent a legal challenge.

If you believe that last-minute changes to an estate plan have been made due to undue influence, contact an attorney as soon as possible because there are time limitations to file a complaint and difficulty in gathering evidence.

About the Author

Steven Custenborder

Steven Custenborder

Steven’s practice focuses on estate planning, tax law, and asset protection.

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