Many people who want to leave behind resources for their children, grandchildren or other loved ones have no qualms about sharing their plans openly prior to their deaths. You may have known for years that your loved one intended to leave you specific assets or a certain share of their total estate.
It can come as a shock to learn that the estate plan left behind deviates from those previous promises made by your loved one. The sad truth is that there are plenty of people who are willing to abuse, manipulate or coerce someone in order to get what they want from that person.
If your diminished inheritance is the result of someone receiving a larger portion of the estate’s assets, you may need to ask yourself whether that person influenced the change in the last will.
There are two main ways for a person to manipulate an estate plan
When someone other than a testator wants to change the terms in a last will or estate plan, they generally have two primary ways of going after their desired changes.
The first and possibly more obvious option is to create a fraudulent will that they either forge a signature on or trick the testator into signing without knowing its contents.
The second will involve them using their relationship or their caregiver position to coerce your loved one into changing the terms of their last will. The first situation is a clear-cut case of fraud, while the second is an obvious example of undue influence.
What are some warning signs of undue influence or fraud?
One of the biggest red flags for potential outside influence on an estate plan is when one person has control over the health or well-being of the testator. A caregiver, such as a child or a spouse, could use that position to manipulate the person in their care.
Last wills that change suddenly while your loved one is in their final stages of life are another warning sign. Last wills without witnesses, such as digital documents, are also warning signs of potential fraud because they won’t have a notary or lawyer present for their signing.
If you suspect influence or fraud, challenging the last will can be a way to right that wrong and revert the estate plan to a previous version. Discussing your concerns with the lawyer can help you decide what steps to take next.