Undue influence

If you suspect that someone has pressured another person to make or change their will to benefit themselves, this may amount to undue influence.

Claims involving undue influence are difficult to prove as the court will require evidence of coercion demonstrating that the testator would not have made the gifts in the will without being unduly influenced. There must be no other reasonable explanation for the terms in the will. Undue influence cannot just be mere persuasion but must mean that the free will of the testator has been overwhelmed. The burden of proof on the person challenging the will in this way is very high, as it is considered a serious allegation.

Often many people do not realise what has happened until after the testator has died and they have seen a copy of the will, at a time when evidence might no longer be available. Undue influence most often happens behind closed doors and so can be difficult to prove.

Alternatively, it may be that the testator has been subjected to fraudulent calumny. This is where someone makes a false representation about the character of another potential beneficiary of a will to the testator, in order to influence them about the terms of their will.

You may have cause for concern involving undue influence or fraudulent calumny in cases where:

  • The will is homemade and not prepared by a professional such as a solicitor;
  • There is the inclusion of a new and unexpected beneficiary or the sudden removal of a beneficiary from an existing will;
  • A beneficiary is involved in the preparation or instructions for the will;
  • The testator was vulnerable, elderly or unwell at the time of the will and reliant on another such as a family member, friend or a carer.

As will challenges on the grounds of undue influence are difficult to prove if there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the will it may be that a challenge on the grounds of knowledge and approval may have better prospects of success.

As specialists, we have the expertise to advise you and assess the merits of your claim in conjunction with the other grounds to challenge a will, including a lack of proper formalities, a lack of testamentary capacity and a lack of knowledge and approval.

Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your concerns with undue influence or to obtain advice about challenging a will or defending a will challenge.