It is unsettling to suspect that someone convinced a deceased parent to change a will before passing away. Unfortunately, the World Health Organization reports that 6.8% of elderly people living in the community and 13.8% in institutions experience financial abuse. In these cases, it is up to the surviving relatives to piece together what might have occurred.
The good news is that legal recourse often exists for this type of situation.
1. Gather information and documents
Initiate the process by collecting all relevant information and documents related to the will. This collection includes the current and previous versions of the will, any communications or notes pertaining to the changes and a list of individuals involved in the modification.
2. Identify signs of coercion
Examine the circumstances surrounding the will change for signs of undue influence. Look for sudden and unexplained alterations, especially if they favor specific individuals over others. Pay attention to the timing of the changes, any unusual requests or if your deceased parent was in poor mental or physical health at the time of the modification.
3. Communicate with other family members
Engage in open and honest communication with other family members who may share the same concerns. Discussing suspicions collectively can provide a broader perspective on the situation and help determine if others have observed similar signs of coercion.
4. Invite a mediator
Explore the possibility of mediation or facilitated family discussions to address concerns and attempt to find a resolution amicably. A neutral third party can assist in facilitating communication and fostering a collaborative environment.
5. Consider counseling or therapy
Emotional challenges often accompany disputes over wills. Encourage family members to seek counseling or therapy to cope with the stress and navigate their emotions constructively.
6. Keep a record of communications
Maintain a detailed record of all communications regarding the suspected coercion. Document conversations, actions taken and any agreements reached during family discussions or mediation.
If concerns persist and an amicable resolution proves elusive, exploring probate court may become necessary. At this stage, a judge can review the evidence and make decisions.