Undue Influence under Illinois Law

The contested will is a frequent element in many dramas, real or imagined. This is largely because the rules and regulations for interpretation and execution of wills and testamentary documents are often complex. In a straightforward case when there are clear beneficiaries to a decedent’s estate and the dispositions had been discussed beforehand, there are usually no complications. However, when the terms of a will are unexpected, unlikely, or inequitable, disputes may arise. Illinois law allows the contesting of a will probated in Naperville on certain grounds by a plaintiff that has standing i.e. a beneficiary in a will immediately preceding the final will. One of these is undue influence.

Undue influence is defined when a third party or beneficiary has such power or authority over the testator that it “prevents the testator from exercising his own will in the disposition of his estate.” As pointed out on the website of Peck Ritchey, LLC, a will is supposed to reflect the true intentions or wishes of the decedent in the disposition of the estate; anyone who can prove that the terms of the will is in fact not what the decedent would have put down but for the influence of a third party or beneficiary.

Undue influence can be tricky to prove or disprove. It is not confined to malicious intent or obvious actions to influence the testator. A person who is kind or affectionate to the testator may be said to have exerted undue influence if it compels the testator to act as a free agent. For example, if the only beneficiary of a new will is the caregiver who served the testator devotedly for several years, and he or she cuts out all blood relations named in a previous will in the process, a case of undue influence may be made.

If you suspect that a family member may have been unduly influenced in the making of a will, you will have to prove it. Consult with a will contest attorney in Naperville to assess your situation and provide you with your legal options.