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How to prove undue influence in a Will

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How to prove undue influence in a Will

There are several grounds on which a Will can be contested, one of which is on the basis of undue influence.

In this article, Dispute Resolution Trainee Solicitor Olivia Parkinson explores undue influence and looks at how you can prove it in law.

What events invalidate a will?

There may be certain events or changes that prompt you to believe that the validity of a will can be contested, such as:

  1. Sudden changes to a Will when the testator becomes unwell;
  2. Changes that differ significantly from what a previous Will said;
  3. Changes that are detrimental to the testator’s estate;
  4. The testator is expressing views that differ largely from what they have previously expressed; or
  5. Changes to a Will once someone loses capacity.

These could all lead to cause for concern and it may be worth getting some legal advice if it is in relation to a family member’s Will.

On what grounds can a Will be challenged?

There are several grounds that may be present in order to allow you to contest the validity of a Will, including (but not limited to):

  1. Invalid execution of the Will;
  2. Undue influence;
  3. Capacity issues relating to the testator;
  4. Knowledge and approval;
  5. Fraud;
  6. Forfeiture; or
  7. Revocation.

What is undue influence in a Will?

This is where the person writing the Will (the testator) is forced or coerced into making changes to their Will to benefit another person, often to the detriment of others.

It is often the case that a testator is influenced to the extent that they have exercised no free will in making a decision for themselves.

What is an example of undue influence in a Will?

A testator making a huge change or alteration to their Will may raise alarm bells for their close family.

This could be due to pressure and influence exerted on the testator by a family member or other close person that prevents the testator from making their own decisions in relation to their financial affairs.

If you believe this has been the case, you need to seek legal advice. Please feel free to contact a member of our bright team here.

How do you prove undue influence in a Will?

Given that undue influence often occurs behind closed doors, it can be very difficult to prove but it is still possible.

The Courts will consider all of the circumstantial evidence put before it when making its decision on whether undue influence was present when the Will was drafted.

It is recognised that an allegation of undue influence is a serious one, so the evidence must be strong in order to support the allegations.

This is likely to require a large amount of circumstantial evidence.  

It is accepted that the level of influence and pressure exerted on a testator can vary between person to person depending on their own personal circumstances.

What happens if a Will is proven invalid?

If the Will is successfully contested, then the Court is able to determine that the Will is invalid and the estate will pass under a testator’s previous will (if there was one), or under the rules of intestacy if there was no earlier will.

How long have I got to bring a claim for undue influence?

You have 6 months from the date that probate was granted to bring a claim for undue influence.

If you are concerned that someone has been pressured into making or changing a Will that does not reflect their wishes, please contact a member of the Dispute Resolution Team using the information below.

Contentious Probate Specialist Solicitors

Our bright Contentious Probate Team can assist you in challenging the validity of a Will on the grounds of undue influence, or any other grounds for that matter.

We are one of a small number of firms in the area with experience in handling the complexities of disputed Wills and inheritance.

We’d be more than happy to discuss your options with you over the phone.

Call us on 01202 499255, or fill out the form at the top of this page, for a free initial chat.