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Estate planning is a crucial process that ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. However, one significant threat to the integrity of your estate plan is an undue influence claim. Understanding how this can affect your estate plan is essential for estate planners, legal professionals, and the general public.

What is Undue Influence?

Undue influence is a legal term referring to a situation where an individual is coerced or manipulated into making decisions that are contrary to their free will. This manipulation often occurs through pressure, deception, or exploitation by someone in a position of trust or power. In the context of estate planning, undue influence claims typically arise when a beneficiary believes that someone improperly influenced the testator (the person creating the will) to alter the terms of the estate plan in their favor.

Why Undue Influence Claims Matter

These claims can have significant repercussions for your estate plan. If a court determines that undue influence occurred, it can invalidate the affected portions of the will or even the entire estate plan. This can lead to lengthy legal battles, increased costs, and potential conflicts among beneficiaries. Here’s why it’s essential to be aware of undue influence:

  • Protecting Your Intentions: Ensuring that your estate plan reflects your true intentions is paramount. Undue influence can distort your wishes, resulting in unintended distributions of your assets.
  • Preventing Legal Disputes: Claims of undue influence can lead to prolonged legal disputes among beneficiaries, which can strain familial relationships and deplete estate assets through legal fees.
  • Maintaining Control: By understanding and mitigating the risk of undue influence, you maintain control over your estate plan and ensure that your decisions are respected.

Signs of Undue Influence

Recognizing the signs of undue influence can help you safeguard your estate plan. Some common indicators include:

  • Isolation: The testator is isolated from family and friends, making them more susceptible to manipulation.
  • Dependence: The testator relies heavily on a particular individual for care or support.
  • Sudden Changes: Abrupt changes in the will or estate plan that favor one individual disproportionately.
  • Secrecy: The testator discusses their estate plan only with a specific person and avoids involving others.

Preventing Undue Influence

To protect your estate plan from undue influence claims, consider the following best practices:

1. Consult an Experienced Estate Planner

Work with a qualified estate planner who can provide expert guidance and ensure that your estate plan is legally sound. A professional can help you structure your will to minimize the risk of undue influence.

2. Communicate Openly

Maintain open communication with your family and beneficiaries about your estate plan. Clearly explaining your decisions can reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings and disputes.

3. Document Your Decisions

Keep detailed records of your estate planning process, including meetings with your estate planner and the reasoning behind your decisions. This documentation can serve as evidence if an undue influence claim arises.

4. Consider a No-Contest Clause

Including a no-contest clause in your will can discourage beneficiaries from challenging your estate plan. This clause stipulates that any beneficiary who contests the will forfeits their inheritance.

5. Regularly Review Your Estate Plan

Periodically review and update your estate plan to reflect any changes in your circumstances or intentions. Regular reviews can help ensure that your estate plan remains aligned with your wishes.


Undue influence claims pose a significant threat to the integrity of your estate plan. By understanding what it is and taking proactive steps to prevent it, you can protect your intentions, reduce the risk of legal disputes, and ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes.

For personalized assistance with your estate planning needs, consider consulting with a qualified estate planner or legal professional. They can provide expert guidance and help you create a robust estate plan that stands up to potential challenges.

Call to Action

If you’re concerned about undue influence affecting your estate plan, or if you need help creating a plan that ensures your wishes are respected, contact our team of experienced estate planners today. Secure your peace of mind and protect your legacy.

The post How Undue Influence Claims May Upend Your Estate Plan appeared first on SD Mayer.

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