Undue influence poses a threat for elderly making wills

In order for a will in Oklahoma to be valid, it must meet certain conditions. The Oklahoma Bar Association points out that the following must be true: 

  •        The testator must have been competent when the will was created.
  •        The will must have been executed with certain formalities.
  •        The will must not have been a product of undue influence.

The last point is especially relevant concerning the wills of elderly individuals who rely on friends or family for help with their estate planning. In fact, undue influence is viewed as a form of elder abuse.

The Center for Elders and the Courts points out that undue influence takes place when someone abuses his or her role in order to gain control over another individual. The elderly are particularly susceptible because they may not have the ability to understand what is happening, or they lack trustworthy friends or family.

For example, a family member may offer to assist to help a grandparent in putting together a will. During the course of the proceedings, the family member convinces the grandparent to leave key assets to him or her.

Understandably, this can create grounds for division within a family. To contest the will, people will have to prove that the person had too much influence on the testator, perhaps because of an illness or other condition. Typically, to prove undue influence, a family may have to show that the testator had a dependency on or special relationship with the person who committed the act.

Further, someone would have to demonstrate that the will is somehow unexpected, such as leaving out key family members or granting inheritance to someone that perhaps would not otherwise benefit from the will. Under an Oklahoma Court ruling, it does not matter if the person who exerted the influence personally benefited from the terms of the will.

Though proving undue influence can be difficult, it is often worth the battle. Proper estate planning ahead of time can circumvent this from becoming an issue.

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