Contentious probate is often a difficult part of law because aside from the fact you are dealing with something potentially legally complicated there is also the emotional side of this. You are dealing with families, potential feuds, disputes and so forth. All of these elements can make the legal process hard and emotional reactions can mean people think they have the case when they may in actual fact not.
One area where this can be both difficult to deal with and hard to prove is whether or not the deceased was under “undue influence.” This begs the question – what is undue influence, how do you define it and how do you prove it?
Undue influence can come in different forms – it may be in terms of verbal and physical bullying. In some cases it may be that they have been misled and that incorrect information may have led to them change their will.
This is something that is unlikely to happen instantly and often this can be over a long period of time and it can be hard for people to see from the outside.
This term is also something that can be misrepresented- a recent case involved two daughters whose father left his estate to a woman who looked after him for a few months before his death. While they felt he was being manipulated the court felt there were not enough facts to prove that she was putting undue influence on their father.
Essentially the difficulty is being able to prove that someone has put pressure on someone to change their Will, especially when the person who might be able to prove it has passed way.
It is not enough to point out if someone infers that they were persuaded or someone appealed to the sense of their loyalty. In order to prove it you have to clearly show that there is no other possible explanation. As you can expect this is not an easy thing to do.
This can also become complicated when people remarry. They may have children with multiple families. This is why it is vital to update your Will on a regular basis and to discuss your wishes with your family on a regular basis. It is not an easy thing to talk about this but it can prevent problems at a later point.
It can’t be emphasised enough – abuse is wrong and ideally this should be reported before this becomes a probate issue.
While proving undue influence may be difficult it is not impossible. At Larcomes we have the resources in order to provide specialist representation while at the same time being able to discuss your concerns with you. When you discuss a case with us we can look at the facts and decide whether or not there is something we can pursue.
If you have concerns that someone is showing undue influence on a friend or relative please contact us and we will be happy to guide you through this process.