The Importance of a Will
The creation and execution of a last will and testament is a significant legal act, intended to reflect an individual’s final wishes regarding the administration and distribution of their estate after death. The estate administration process can become a complex and emotionally charged affair when the validity of a will is questioned. One of the legal grounds on which a will may be contested is ‘undue influence’. This article will explore the complexities involved in the process of challenging a will and the crucial role legal expertise plays in navigating this delicate set of circumstances.
What is Undue Influence?
Undue influence occurs when external pressures or manipulative tactics are believed to have compromised the free will and judgement of the testator. It often involves a person exerting pressure or coercion on the testator, forcing them to make testamentary decisions that do not align with their true intentions. Recognising undue influence is pivotal in ensuring that the final Will accurately reflects the true intentions of the deceased.
How do you identify Undue Influence?
Identifying undue influence requires a nuanced understanding of the circumstances surrounding the creation of the will. Signs may include sudden changes to a longstanding will, isolation of the testator from family and friends, an unexplained shift in beneficiaries, or a major beneficiary being heavily involved in the drafting process of the Will.
Identifying and proving these specific types of circumstances will likely involve gathering witness statements, reviewing medical records and further documentary evidence. This can often be a convoluted and emotionally taxing process during an already difficult time.
Proving Undue Influence
Proving undue influence is a difficult task as it is usually not easy to produce the type of evidence required by the court. The burden of proof lies with the party who is contesting the will. The evidence produced must be strong and convincing. This will often require a meticulous examination of the relationships involved, the circumstances surrounding the will’s creation, any external pressures, any anything else required.
The right to challenge a will is limited to individuals holding a proper interest in securing a grant of probate or letters of administration. Those falling within the category of individuals with a proper interest encompass the beneficiaries named in the will and those who will inherit the estate in the event of intestacy. Typically, these are the exclusive groups allowed to contest a will.
Under specific circumstances, individuals not falling within the aforementioned definitions may also contest a will. The criteria for eligibility can fluctuate depending on the jurisdiction, and seeking legal advice is important to gain clarity on whether one qualifies as an eligible claimant.
Need Advice? Get in touch.
Challenging a Will on the basis of undue influence can be complex and an emotionally charged process. As families grapple with the emotional aspects of contesting a loved one’s will, seeking the support of legal professionals can be crucial. At Greenhalgh Pickard, we have a team of Estate Solicitors who are well-equipped to offer expert guidance and support, smoothly navigating you through the complexities of the process.
Greenhalgh Pickard’s Wills and Estates Team
The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of a professional. This information does not consider your personal circumstances and may not reflect the most current legal developments. Should you need advice, please contact our firm for targeted information relating to personal your situation.