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How can undue influence invalidate a will?

If you are like many people in California and across the United States, you created your last will and testament while you were of sound mind and body. When writing your will, you determine who you want to have your possessions and finances upon your passing. In some cases, however, there may be people who try to influence you to make drastic changes in your will, especially as you grow older. This is referred to as undue influence, and it can invalidate a will if it is found you were not making the changes and decisions on your own accord.

Undue influence occurs when someone urges or persuades another person to make changes to their will designating them as the beneficiary to property. This involves changes that the will creator would not have made if they were acting on their own free will.  This persuasion can be used to invalidate the will if the person who is writing the will was under so much duress that they were unable to resist the overwhelming influence of the other person. Furthermore, the changes made to the will must directly benefit the person who is being accused of undue influence.

There are certain factors judges will look for if they are considering undue influence in a case. These include the age, education level and cognitive function of the person creating the will. Also, the judge may look at whether there are injuries, illnesses, emotional distress or disabilities involved.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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