Estate litigation and undue influence

Undue influence relates to the accusation that the drafter of a will was being influenced by another person through manipulation, and that the will document in question does not reflect the true wishes of the person who drafted it. These types of lawsuits may arise during the probate process of an estate.

Most undue influence claims are brought forward by a family member or a potential heir who suspects that the will the probate court doesn't represent the true wishes of the decedent. In some cases, for example, there might be a previous will, which treated the potential heir in a better way than a subsequent will. If it can be shown that the decedent was in poor health when the second will was drafted, the person bringing the undue influence claim might have a valid point.

Here is a typical scenario that might be encountered: A person is suffering from severe physical or mental health issues that prevent him or her from fully understanding the implications of a newly drafted will. However, the person creates and signs a new will anyway.

A Vancouver court might view the will in such a case as being invalid because the will creator did not fully understand it. In other situations where the will maker is of poor health, the will maker might be completely dependent on someone who manipulates him or her in such a way as to redraft a will to disinherit other relatives and leave the entire estate to the caretaker.

The Wills, Estates, and Succession Acts (WESA), which went into effect in 2014, provides that the person who is benefiting from a new will must prove that he or she did not inflict undue influence on the will maker. This puts the burden of proof on the beneficiary of the new will rather than on the persons or family members who are bringing forward the undue influence claims, making it the process of contesting a will on grounds of undue influence easier for heirs than it was in the past.

Vancouver residents who suspect that they may have a viable claim for undue influence in the case can gain more insight into the law on this matter by speaking with a qualified estate lawyer.

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Lunny Atmore

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