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The difference between undue influence and fraud

On Behalf of | May 23, 2024 | Probate

When someone wants to challenge a will or an estate plan, they need to provide a reason for that challenge. Only certain people are allowed to challenge, and this usually includes beneficiaries or direct descendants. But even these individuals need to demonstrate a reason — they cannot just challenge a will because they don’t like how it was drafted.

Two reasons to potentially challenge an estate plan are undue influence and fraud. These may be similar in some ways, but they are also quite different. It’s important to understand how they work.

A fraudulent estate plan

With fraud, it could be that none of the documents are real or official. For instance, someone may have created a fraudulent will. When their elderly loved one passed away, they disposed of the actual estate plan and presented theirs as the real copy. They are simply hoping that no one finds out that it’s a fraudulent plan, likely so they can “inherit” more assets themselves.

The impact of undue influence

With undue influence, the documents themselves are legitimate. They were written by the person who wrote the estate plan. However, the problem is that someone on the outside influenced that person’s choices, perhaps through manipulation.

For example, a son who lives at home and acts as a caretaker for an elderly parent may spread rumors or lies about his sister who lives in another state. The son is trying to drive a wedge between their parent and their sister so that they will then receive a greater percentage of the inheritance.

These are just two potential reasons to challenge an estate plan out of many. Those who are going through this complex process must know what legal steps to take.