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IL probate lawyerUndue influence is the most common justification in Illinois when someone wants to contest the validity of a will. But what is undue influence? And if you suspect someone is trying to wield undue influence over your loved one during the creation of their will, what can you do about it? We will explore the concept of undue influence in a short series of blog posts, explaining what undue influence is and how it is treated under Illinois law.

Undue influence is when the person for whom the will is written (the testator) has their wishes wrongfully manipulated and overpowered by someone else. This obscures the true wishes of the testator and can cause tension and conflict in executing the will after the testator is deceased.

Family members who are concerned their loved one is being subject to undue influence may have worries triggered by unusual behavior, such as sudden estrangement or confusion on the part of the testator. They may witness a decline in the mental capacity of the testator, or notice they are accompanied by a companion who seems overly zealous in “helping” the testator or seems to be influencing their decision making.

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DuPage County contested will attorneyIt can be traumatic when the loss of a loved one is coupled with shock and surprise over a will that transfers the estate’s assets in a way that appears inconsistent with the intentions of the deceased testator. If you are dealing with such a scenario in the wake of the loss of your parent, spouse, child, or another close relative, you may have the option to formally contest the validity of the will in question. In doing so, you should work closely with an experienced Illinois wills and trusts attorney.

 A Will Must Comply With Applicable State Laws to be Valid

Wills and trusts are serious business. As such, a will must comply with all formalities imposed by state law in order to be regarded as valid. For example, Illinois law requires that a will must be signed by the person whose estate it concerns, who is known as the “testator”. In addition, the testator’s signing of the will must occur in the presence and hearing of two valid witnesses. In most cases, in order to be a valid witness of a will, a person must not be a beneficiary of the will. If you have reason to believe that the will was not created in accordance with these requirements, you may have grounds to contest it.

The Drafting and Execution of a Will Must Be Free from Undue Influence and Fraud

In addition to signature and witness requirements imposed by Illinois state law, the drafting and signing of a will must be free from undue influence and fraud. Undue influence exists when a testator is subjected to extreme pressure or severe duress to the extent that free will is suppressed. When mental or physical capacity diminishes with age, a testator may be particularly vulnerable to undue influence exerted by individuals lacking scruples.

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DuPage County estate planning lawyer

You do not have to be materialistic to become sentimental about a loved one’s possessions or to feel slighted by the contents of his or her will or estate plan. In fact, even the most down-to-earth people may feel a sense of injustice when a will or trust appears to have been altered, coerced, or otherwise manipulated. The good news is that if you have the right information and the right resources, you may be able to contest the will and put things right again.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

While any “interested party” may contest a will (siblings, children, spouses, etc.), the contesting party must have valid grounds for doing so. In other words, you cannot simply challenge a will because you feel like it was unfair, insulting, or mean-spirited. You can, however, contest a will if you believe one of the following is true:

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