Undue influence can occur when an individual threatens or makes fraudulent misrepresentations in order to get another person to do something. In the context of a will, undue influence might occur if an individual pressures or threatens the person making the will, or the testator, into amending the will to benefit the individual in some way. As it relates to estate administration, then, undue influence is a way to legally challenge a will that another person is attempting to submit or has submitted to the court for probate administration.
In order to prove undue influence with respect to a will under Michigan law, you must prove that the testator amended or changed the provisions of a will because of threats, fraud, misrepresentation, or another type of coercion by another individual. There is a legal presumption of undue influence in the making of a will if the testator and another individual had a fiduciary relationship, the individual benefits from the changes to the will, and the individual had the chance to unduly influence the testator in making the will. Individuals who often exert undue influence on others are new spouses, caregivers, or family members. In many cases, the individual putting pressure on the testator has isolated him or her from family and friends in order to exert more control. Elderly or disabled testators who depend on the individual often are more susceptible to undue influence.
For instance, assume that your grandmother pays a caregiver to run errands, clean the house, prepare meals, and give her medications. After a few years, the caregiver tells your grandmother that if she doesn’t make a new will, her children will spend all her money on drugs, or that she won’t let her have her medicine unless she makes a new will. These misrepresentations and threats convince your grandmother to sign a new will that makes the caregiver the primary beneficiary of her estate and specifically disinherits her son. This is a situation in which the one of the children could challenge the will based on undue influence by the caregiver by filing a written objection with the court administering the will.
Determining whether undue influence has led to a change in a loved one’s estate plan is an essential step in ensuring that your loved one’s wishes are carried out. If you are in this situation, we have the knowledge and resources to assist you. Call Legacy Law Center today and learn how our Michigan estate planning attorneys can advocate on your behalf.
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