Undue Influence

This is unwarranted control exerted via a third party upon another person.  Under such context that person does something that they would not normally do if such influence were not present; i.e., signing and agreeing to something that they would not normally agree to.  As you can imagine, in the event of a Last Will and Testament; a lawful document in England and Wales, which is uphold able by law, the consequences of such duress can be dire.  Such as undesirable people forcing a claim on persons’ property and estate that they don’t deserve; whilst other more deserving parties become unjustly wronged by such actions.

What would typically spark suspicion of undue influence would be the sense by a would-be heir that they have been unfairly robbed or mistreated by the property division within a Last Will and Testament.  To them the testator’s or testatrix’s Last Will & Testament is clearly an unjust treatment of them.  For instance, an unequal and bias division of the property and estate among children of the deceased could arouse obvious suspicion of manipulation and foul play.  Under the rules of intestacy in England and Wales siblings would be given an equal proportional share of the total estate; so expectations of an equal share would naturally reside in the minds of brothers and sisters. 

So when there is an unbalanced division of property; then, many aggrieved descendants will Contest a Last Will and Testament in an English or Welsh court making claims of unnecessary dominance and manipulation over their parents by their brothers or sisters.  There is however; subject to no violation of a Legal Act of Parliament, no actual requirement that a person has to reward siblings equally within their Last Will and Testament unless they so choose.  It sounds a bit like a contradiction, but for example under the Family and Dependents Act 1975; applicable in England and Wales, you have a legal responsibility to provide for those that are still dependent upon you at the time of your death.  Thus, this legislation would naturally override your freedom of choice to do whatever you wanted.

If a person has no dependents; whether they be single with no kids or a single elderly person whose children are grown ups living their own independent lives with their own family or otherwise; then, they could in their Last Will and Testament leave their property, money and overall estate to any persons, charities or organisations they desire.  The children or close relatives might even think there choice is seriously unfair or weird should they leave their whole estate to an unexpected unknown outsider.  However, just because they are direct family or a close relative they don’t have automatic grounds for challenging the English or Welsh Last Will and Testament.

Whenever there is a matter of manipulation or duress employed against a testator / testatrix then the issue needs to be assessed and judged by the courts.  If a successor is judged through the courts as being guilty of employing undue influence on someone; such that they affect the drafting of their Last Will and Testament, then they possibly will lose his or her benefaction.

 

Some of the actions, behaviour and indicators that serve to demonstrate undue influence when it comes to writing Wills would be:

 1. When one person is constantly persuading another to leave their money to them. 

2. When one person gets the other to use their solicitor to write their Last Will and Testament.

3. Being present in the room when at the solicitors’ during the writing of the Will. 

4. Having any input whilst at the solicitors.

5. Writing a Will for another to sign.

6. Telling a person what to write down in their Last Will.

7. Helping them to write their Will.

8. Loneliness on the behalf of the testator / testatrix.  This can make them vulnerable and susceptible to influence.

9. The testator / testatrix being elderly and frail.

10. Use of emotional blackmail.

11, Any other form of blackmail.

11. The testator / testatrix being depressed. This can cause them not to be thinking straight and more subject to influential persuasion.

12. The inheritor getting their solicitor to visit the testator / testatrix to write their Last Will. 

13. The inheritor is known to be domineering. 

14. The inheritor is known to be aggressive by nature. This could naturally affect the testator / testatrix especially if they have reason to be afraid of them. 

15. The inheritor has a record of dishonesty.

16.The testator or testatrix suffers from some emotional or physiological problem.

17. A last minute Will and Testament change in favour of a person in close contact with them during their final months, weeks and days.  This is obviously more suspicious when the inheritor is a relative stranger, such as a carer employed to look after them.

 

Some of the items listed above would actually fall into the category of duress and some would pose questions of a testators / testatrix’s soundness of mind; all of which is invariably intertwine able with issues of undue influence.

 As a person producing your own last will and testament, in order not to give anybody just cause to question your Will you need to take care to steer clear of opportunist making claims of unjustified dominance and influence being employed upon you by your chosen and desired heirs.  To lessen the ability and opportunity of such challenges, it is ordinarily a good idea to record the reasons for your bequests being as you desire.  Remember you won’t be around any longer to explain or defend your choices; so writing your reasoning down within your Last Will and Testament or in an attached signed letter is the only way to make it clear to others once your gone. If your reasons are vast and complex you might choose not to put them within your Last Will & Testament, however make sure to safe guard the existence of this letter as much as you would your Will to avoid unscrupulous others destroying it and making it disappear.

SEE ALSO:

Sound & Unsound Mind
Protect Against Unsound Mind
Undue Influence
Choosing The Right Person To Be Executor.
Why Have Multiple Executors?
Appointing An Executor.
Wills & Family
Rules Surrounding Guardianship
Selecting Your Guardian
Automatic Guardianship
Appointing A Guardian
Inheritance Tax
Parental Responsibility
Changing Guardianship
Money For Child And Guardian

 

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