It is not uncommon to feel a certain degree of unease after the loss of a loved one. When the decedent had an estate plan in place, though, the documents can prevent unnecessary arguments and familial disputes. Certain factors, however, could lead one to question the validity of the plan itself. One common concern is that the testator drafted a will or made revisions under the undue influence of another individual.
Often referred to as “duress,” when an individual drafts or revises provisions against their own free will, the entire document becomes suspect. While it will take an investigation to uncover the truth, there are certain red flags that could cause the surviving loved ones to question the document’s validity, including:
- Rapid revisions: Over the course of the last few decades, you might have noticed your elderly loved ones revising the estate plan on a regular basis. Many financial experts agree that people should revise the plan every three to five years. If, however, you see your mother or father filing revisions more rapidly to account for no significant life events, it could potentially be a sign that someone pressured your loved one to make unscheduled changes to their will, trust or other estate planning documents.
- Inclusion of unknown beneficiaries: Another red flag considers the inclusion of new or previously unmentioned beneficiaries. While it is perfectly natural to make new friends over the course of a lifetime, the sudden inclusion of beneficiaries could be cause for concern.
- Use of unconventional language: While minor, the language your loved one used in the estate plan’s revisions could be a red flag as to their authenticity. If you’ve never in your life heard your mother or father use words such as “obstreperous” or “vilify” and things like that make it into their will, it could be a sign that someone else is speaking through them. Even if concerns like this do not necessarily hold up in a legal proceeding, they could signal something more nefarious happening behind the scenes.
Having said that, we should reiterate that these are all bits of circumstantial evidence. These red flags should be communicated to a legal professional who could potentially investigate your claims and provide guidance on your next steps. If you worry that your loved one drafted a will revision under duress or lacked the testamentary capacity to legally do so, it is wise to seek professional guidance.