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Who might exert undue influence on a Colorado will?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2023 | Probate, Trust & Estate Administration |

Families usually expect a will to accurately describe a departed loved one’s legacy wishes. Those who are legal adults and who retain their testamentary capacity can leave instructions about their resources after their death. Unless their documents violate state law, a testator can have total control over the distribution of their assets.

When a decedent has taken the time to draft a will, their loved ones are likely to respect whatever terms they included in their documents. People generally want to uphold the legacy that their loved ones desired. However, sometimes there are questions about whether or not a will is valid and accurate.

One of the few scenarios that would justify a will contest under Colorado law involves undue influence. A claim of undue influence involves raising allegations that someone used their relationship with the testator to influence the terms included in their estate planning documents. Who could potentially be in a position to exert undue influence when someone drafts or updates estate planning paperwork?

Caregivers and immediate family can manipulate people

For undue influence to occur, there need to be a few specific elements present. One of the most important is that the testator must be vulnerable in some way. Declining health is one example. They might rely on their spouse or children to help manage their daily life and ensure they have proper medical support.

Anyone in a caregiver role is in a position to manipulate or coerce the testator into changing their documents. Even professional caregivers, like nurses visiting someone’s home regularly, might try to convince a testator to change their estate plan for personal benefit. Someone who controls an older adult’s socialization, transportation or meals could very easily abuse that role for personal gain.

They will also need to be a beneficiary for others to have a reasonable claim of undue influence. Generally speaking, the Colorado probate courts expect to see proof that someone benefited from exerting undue influence. If someone receives a surprisingly large portion of the estate after caring for the testator, that is an indicator that undue influence may have played a role in the terms that someone set for the distribution of property after they die.

Showing that one party inappropriately influenced the testator might convince the probate courts to set aside their estate planning documents or review older documents for the purposes of asset distribution.