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When a caregiver improperly influences a vulnerable person’s will

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2024 | estate administration |

The probate process can be long and technical. The personal representative of a Tennessee state may have to attend court and send out legal notices to multiple parties, including creditors. There is often a lengthy wait between when someone dies and when it is possible to distribute their resources.

Sometimes, litigation related to the estate delays the process even further. Family members who question the validity of the estate plan sometimes choose to take legal action. Concerns about a caregiver receiving a surprisingly large portion of an estate could be a reason to contest the deceased’s will in the Tennessee probate courts.

Caregivers can exert undue influence

There are only a few viable legal reasons to challenge someone’s estate plan after they die. Credible concerns about undue influence are one justification. Estate planning documents should contain terms set by a testator. Their relationships and personal priorities dictate what they want to do with their property after they die.

However, sometimes other people use their relationship with the testator to secure an inheritance they would otherwise not receive or a larger portion of the estate than the testator wants to allocate to them. A caregiver might threaten an older adult in need of support. They could become physically and emotionally abusive. Other times, they might withhold communications with others or pain medication to force someone into making changes to their estate planning wishes.

For someone to bring a credible claim of undue influence against estate planning paperwork, the situation needs to meet certain standards. The testator must have been in a vulnerable position due to health or other factors. Someone in a position to manipulate or coerce them must have exerted inappropriate influence on them when they created or updated estate planning documents.

Establishing that undue influence affected an estate plan requires proof of misconduct, medical vulnerability and changes to estate planning documents or intentions. The probate courts may set aside compromised documents in favor of upholding someone’s previous paperwork. The probate courts can even set aside a trust if there is an indication that coercion or undue influence affected the terms someone set in their trust documents. The courts could also treat the estate as though someone died without an estate plan, which involves allocating their assets to their closest family members.

Recognizing the warning signs that an outside party may have inappropriately affected estate planning documents can help people take action during estate administration. Those who know someone’s wishes can potentially recognize signs of inappropriate conduct based on the terms of someone’s will or trust.