Adults in Louisiana have the right to put together estate plans that address their personal wishes for their care as they age and the distribution of their assets after they die. Families that have just lost a loved one are often grateful that the decedent had the foresight to put together documents outlining their wishes and providing guidance for a state administration.
Occasionally, families will review those documents and become concerned that an individual’s testamentary documents do not reflect their true wishes. A will should include terms that the testator set based on their priorities and relationships. Unfortunately, sometimes outside parties try to use their relationship with the testator to influence the terms of their estate plan. That undue influence could render a will invalid. The following are some of the warning signs that undue influence may have impacted the terms of someone’s estate plan.
Drastic, last-minute changes
One of the biggest red flags for undue influence is when the testator makes a significant change to their testamentary documents later in life. Particularly if someone has always maintained the same basic estate plan and then makes sudden changes that they do not communicate to family members as their health declines, undue influence could be to blame.
One person becoming the main beneficiary
Those who exert undue influence on a testator usually do so to secure personal enrichment. Therefore, changes that specifically benefit one individual at the expense of others are often a warning that the beneficiary may have manipulated the circumstances for their own benefit. The decision to make one party their main beneficiary or to eliminate other beneficiaries after having maintained the same estate plan for years could be a sign that an outside party influenced that revision.
Strained relationships complicated by a caregiver
Undue influence is often manipulative, meaning that someone with regular access to the testator tries to trick them into believing the changes are their own wishes. A spouse, child or professional serving as a caregiver for an older adult might intentionally interfere in the relationship the testator has with other family members. They might refuse to connect phone calls or turn away guests at the front door. That could then damage the relationship the testator has with their loved ones by creating a feeling of abandonment, which could make them feel like changing their estate plan is a reasonable decision.
Being able to recognize the possible warning signs of undue influence can help those who have recently lost a loved one recognize when they may need to challenge a questionable estate plan in court.