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How can undue influence be used to contest a will?

Estate planning requires the right legal advice.

In some situations, it will be possible to contest the distribution of a will because the deceased was under undue influence or the will was drafted under suspicious circumstances. While this event is very rare, it is still important that individuals understand these risks when engaging in the estate planning process.

Undue influence refers to circumstances in which a will is drafted with a significant degree of pressure from another person. For example, if an individual was very sick and easily swayed by someone, the resulting will might be deemed to have been written under undue influence.

In order to successfully contest a will on these grounds, the Courts would need to be satisfied that a will does not reflect the true wishes of the deceased, but they had no other option than to sign the will.

For those contesting a will in Queensland, the judge may infer that a will has been drafted under undue influence. However, in many cases the plaintiff will need to prove that a will was drafted under undue influence, without relying on an inference based on the contents of the will itself. The easiest way to do this would be to have a witness who saw the will being signed under the influence of another person.

A will can also be contested based on an argument of suspicious circumstances, which involves the conditions under which a will was written. If, for example, the will was prepared by one of the beneficiaries or was a dramatic departure from an earlier will, this might constitute suspicious circumstances. 

When it comes to suspicious circumstances, it isn't enough that the situation became suspicious after a death – the suspicion must stem from when the will was drafted.

For anyone looking to prevent an estate dispute because of undue influence or suspicious circumstances, it is important to draft your will with the help of a wills and estates lawyer. They will not only be able to draft a sound will, but can also attest that the signing of this document was made without the influence of anyone else.