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Fraud vs. undue influence when writing a will

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2024 | Estate Planning

When someone writes a will, it should express their genuine desires for what happens to their estate. They do this to help the remaining family members because, if the person died intestate, state law would take over and govern what should happen to their assets. A will can give that person the ability to make these decisions in advance, making things much easier for their family.

But if your parents are in the process of drafting an estate plan, you may be concerned that it won’t actually reflect their wishes. There are two ways that this can happen, which are similar and yet notably different.

A fraudulent will

Fraud is defined as an intentional lie, where something that is not true is purposefully stated. In the context of estate planning, this could mean that someone else wrote the will for your parents. There are some situations in which a parent passes away and then a beneficiary suddenly produces a “more recent” will that they have just located, which benefits them directly. But the reality is that they created this document fraudulently and tried to pass it off as the authentic one.

Undue influence

Undue influence, on the other hand, is if that person tries to pressure or manipulate your parent into writing a will that benefits them. They’re not trying to pass off a different document as the real one, but they are trying to alter the contents of the authentic document. They may use a position of power to do this, such as if they are the main caretaker for an elderly parent.

These issues can complicate the estate planning process. It is important for those involved to understand all their legal options.