How Do You Prove Coercion When Contesting a Will?

Posted on: 30 June 2022

The revelation can sometimes be a bombshell when a will is first revealed to the family. Someone expecting to get a provision within the will finds that they are left out completely and that a significant part of the estate has been allocated to someone else entirely. If you are the aggrieved person here, you may wonder how this situation has come about and may have your suspicions. In this case, did that other party exert undue influence on the will-maker, so they changed their mind and proceeded in a different direction entirely? If you suspect this, what can you do?

Contesting a Will

There are certainly grounds for contesting a will whenever undue influence is suspected. However, it can be quite a difficult allegation to prove, and the onus will be on you to do so unequivocally.

The Burden of Proof

It is not sufficient to show that a certain individual influenced the will-maker during their last days. Rather, you must show that there was coercion and that the other party fully intended to change the mind of the will-maker in order to make their own personal gains.

Exploiting Vulnerability

Sometimes, the will-maker is in a fragile state of mind and may be particularly vulnerable. It may not take much to push them to the point where they agree to a certain cause of action, simply to be left in peace. On the other end of the spectrum, the other party could threaten the will-maker with some form of action or even violence if they do not change the document and write them in instead.

The Balance of Probabilities

You will need to convince a court beyond any reasonable doubt or, on the balance of probabilities, that this other party coerced the will-maker. As a result of their direct action, the will-maker then executed the document in such a way as to benefit that third party.

The Difference between Advice and Coercion

Remember, advice is one thing, but coercion is something else entirely. After all, it's not illegal for somebody to advise the will-maker when they are drawing up the document, even if that advice could be considered "strong." In this case, the adviser may do so with the best interests of the will-maker at heart. You need to draw a strong differentiation between this kind of behaviour and coercion if you are to be successful in your contest.

Getting Professional Help

As you can see, the bar is quite high, and you need to put forward a strong case. This is why you should work with an experienced lawyer who will guide you along the way.

Reach out to a law firm that handles estate law and wills for more information.


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