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Do you suspect a stepparent of undue influence on the last will?

Few things are as upsetting as learning that someone has taken advantage of your parent as their health and mental acuity declined. Most families will discuss inheritances and legacies at some point as parents begin to age.

If you and your siblings know that your parent intended to leave a significant portion of their estate to you, their children, a last will that does not reflect those wishes may shock you and leave you feeling angry. Conflicts with stepparents over an estate can easily lead to probate challenges.

It is possible for spouses who serve as caretakers during someone's later years to abuse their position for their own personal benefit. There are several ways in which a stepparent could manipulate their spouse into changing their last will.

Some people exert straightforward pressure related to caregiving

Undue influence could look like a stepparent threatening to withhold food, pain medication or other basic necessities from your loved one if they don't agree to make changes to their last will or estate plan.

Having a spouse as a caretaker can be a wonderful situation or it can leave someone in a very vulnerable and isolated position. When a stepparent abuses their caretaking authority for financial gain, the changes made in the last will are not a real reflection of the intentions of the deceased but rather a reflection of the undue influence that stepparent exerted.

More subtle manipulation could have led to damaged relationships

When you called or came to visit, did your stepparent frequently tell you that your parent wasn't available or was feeling unwell? Withholding access for family members is one way in which stepparents can alienate their spouse from the rest of the family and convince someone that they are the only one looking out for them. Someone who feels abandoned is more likely to agree to disinherit everyone in their family out of anger or hurt feelings.

It's possible your stepparent tricked your parent into signing a new last will

There are cases of estate fraud in which an individual has tricked someone into signing a last will by making them think they were signing a different document or that the terms included within the document were different from what they actually are.

If you have reason to suspect these or other underhanded actions on the part of a stepparent, particularly if you have a copy of the previous last will that more accurately reflects their loved one's intentions, you may need to consider challenging the estate in probate court.

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