During the recent lockdown, some family members may have not been able to see the more vulnerable in their family as much as they want. Although it is horrible to think about, some members of society have been left vulnerable and exposed to being taken advantage of.
If you think that a loved one may have been pressured by someone into making or changing their will so that it does not reflect what they wanted, you could make a claim to challenge the will on the grounds of undue influence.
This means proving that someone close to the deceased (a family member, neighbour or friend), used the influence they had over the deceased to pressure them into making a will that they would otherwise not have made.
It is not enough for you simply to show that the person had influence over the deceased. You must also be able to prove that the person used their influence unduly, to the point that the deceased would have felt like they had no other choice. This can be difficult to prove if you were not involved in the will-making process. The accused would have been and will be able to give a first-hand account of the circumstances, resulting in it being a case of your word against theirs.
However, there is evidence that you might be able to provide to support your case, such as:
- Any previous wills or letters showing how the deceased previously intended on sharing his estate on death; or
- Any conversations you had with the deceased around the time the will was made which suggest the deceased felt pressured or wanted his estate to be dealt with differently.
Whether the will was made by a professional or whether it was a home-made will may also assist your claim. However, it is important to note that when dealing with these types of cases the court don't like to divert from a valid will unless there is good evidence to support that the will does not reflect the deceased's true wishes. This is because the deceased has the right to leave their estate to anyone they want. Although, the courts recognise that they must make that decision freely.
If you have concerns about the circumstances in which a will has been made, but are unsure whether undue influence was involved, there are other possible claims you could make to challenge the will such as on the basis of lack of capacity. Alternatively you might be eligible to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Our team can help you figure out what remedy may be best for you.
Originally published July 30, 2020.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.