Many people create a will in an effort to help their family and loved ones navigate their estate after they die. It can be very difficult to decide how to divide up assets and personal belongings, especially during a time of grief, and having the decedent’s will to rely on can take a lot of pressure off. Because a will is supposed to ensure that the decedent’s property is distributed according to their wishes, Courts and Judges like to stick to the will as often and as closely as possible to ensure those desires are carried out. What happens, however, if the will and the instructions in it just don’t seem right? For example, is someone who wasn’t close to the deceased being left a lot of property or valuables? Do the directions in the will differ from what you may have heard the person say during their lifetime? Was the deceased person sick or suffering from Alzheimers or Dementia or any other incapacitating illness when the will was executed? Was this will executed after a different one with different provisions had already been created? Any of these issues might affect whether or not the will is valid.
The validity of a will can be challenged if you believe that the person was under undue influence at the time of execution. Utah Code Ann. §§75-3-407. That means that someone else was influencing the person writing the will to include or exclude provisions and gifts and add language that ordinarily wouldn’t have been what the decedent wants.
In Utah, undue influence is most often found when the the testator – the person whose will it is, and the beneficiary – the person who is taking something under the will have a confidential relationship, like an attorney and their client. Estate of Jones v. Jones, 739 P. 2d (Utah 1988). Undue influence can also be found and a will invalidated if the will was executed when the person did not have their free will and someone else pressured them into creating or signing the document. Further, if the person was vulnerable or incapacitated when the will was executed, its validity can be called into question.
The area of law surrounding wills and trusts can be very complicated. Aside from undue influence, wills can be invalidated for any number of things, even things as simple as not being witnesses, having some handwritten and some typed portion, or not being signed. Talk to an attorney to help you create a will and ensure that your loved ones will know what you want to happen and help them navigate a difficult process on your death.