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What to Do If You Think Your Loved One Was Forced into Signing Their Will

 Posted on April 19, 2019 in Estate Planning

DuPage County Wills and Trusts AttorneyThe instructions contained in a person’s Last Will and Testament are deeply personal. An individual usually thinks long and hard about how he wants his estate divided among heirs before putting these decisions in writing. According to Illinois law, wills produced through undue influence, coercion, force, or fraud are not legally-binding. If you believe that your loved ones will does not reflect his or her actual final wishes, you may be able to challenge the validity of the will in court. Challenging a will can be a complex legal endeavor. Help from an experienced estate planning lawyer may be necessary in these cases.

Did Your Loved One Have the Mental Capacity to Understand the Will?

When we age, both our bodies and our minds tend to weaken. In order for a person to be able to legally enter into a contract such as a will, he or she must have the mental ability to understand what he or she is agreeing to. This so-called “testamentary capacity" includes an understanding of the value of the property addressed in the will, an understanding of who should logically inherit this property, and the consequences of signing a legally binding document. Not everyone with dementia or another mental disability is unable to legally consent to a will, however. It is up to the person challenging the validity of the will to prove that his or her loved one could not consent to the document. In situations like this, the validity of the will may hinge on testimonies of the witnesses to the will signing, medical evidence, or an adjudication of incapacity.

Was Your Loved One Under Duress When Signing the Will?

Legal documents, such as wills and trusts, which are entered into through coercion or force are not legally valid. This means that if your loved one only agreed to the terms of the will because he or she was afraid not to, the will may be unenforceable. Duress can include threats of harm to the testator or his or her loved ones, intended harm, or other stress put upon the testator intended to get them to do something they would not otherwise do. Only estate planning documents signed and agreed to by the testator’s own free will can be enforced.

Presumptively Void Transfers

In Illinois, there are some situations in which a will is automatically presumed to be invalid. Because of the tragic frequency of elder financial abuse and manipulation, certain estate planning scenarios are assumed to be the result of force, coercion, or undue influence. The law states that when property valued at over $20,000 is assigned to a non-related caregiver, for example, this assignment is assumed to be fraudulent. This presumption does not automatically invalidate the will, however. It only becomes an issue when the transfer instrument (will, trust or other document) is challenged in a civil action.

Contact a DuPage County Will and Trust Lawyer

To learn more, contact an experienced Lombard estate planning attorney at A. Traub & Associates. Call 630-426-0196 today schedule your initial consultation.



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