Safeguarding Your Legacy: Ensuring the Genuine Intent Behind Every Will

Wednesday 13th September 2023

Having a Will is incredibly important to reflect your wishes when it comes to the distribution of assets, care of loved ones and the preservation of your legacy after you pass. However, the process of writing a Will is not without its complexities, and one critical factor that can impact the authenticity of a Will is claims surrounding undue influence.

In this blog we will delve into the topic of undue influence and the importance of safeguarding legacies by ensuring the authenticity of your Will.

What is Undue Influence?

Undue influence in the context of Wills is a situation when an individual has been coerced into making a Will that they didn’t want to make. It can take many forms including physical force and pressure. An accusation of undue influence is often made when an individual's vulnerabilities have been taken advantage of when they are weak, in ill-health, suffering from impairment, or dependant on another person. It undermines the true intentions and wishes of the individual, leading to an inaccurate representation of their final wishes. This leaves the Will in question in a precarious position where it is open to being contested. So, with an increasing number of legal cases involving undue influence, it has never been a more prevalent topic to discuss.

How to Prevent Undue Influence

To prevent undue influence and safeguard your legacy, we have compiled a list of top tips that are important to take into account:

Professional Guidance 

When writing your Will, it is important to seek guidance from a professional. They will provide expert advice to help ensure you make highly informed decisions with the aim of safeguarding your best interests, as opposed to the interests of someone else. This will minimise the risk of undue influence.

Transparency and Communications

Equally as important, is that you make an effort to communicate clearly with your loved ones surrounding your intentions and wishes. By being open about your wishes, you can prevent misunderstandings and reduce the potential for disputes once you have passed, that can lead to upset within your family and ultimately the contesting of your Will.

Frequent Health Checks

It is important, especially when you have a health condition such as dementia or a severe learning difficulty, that you undergo frequent health checks to ensure that you have the mental capacity to make your own decisions regarding the contents of your Will. Just because you may suffer from one of these health issues it doesn’t necessarily mean that you lack the capacity to make decisions, but it is important to rule this out or be aware if this is the case. If this is infact the case then implementations can be put in place, such as providing an independent advocate, who will support you in making certain decisions, to ensure you make decisions that are in your best interests and that you are not taken advantage of by someone with ulterior motives, allowing undue influence to take place.

Maintain Independence

Naturally, we rely on those we are closest to when it comes to advice. Although, when you are writing your Will and making decisions surrounding its contents, it is extremely important to maintain your independence when making said decisions. Taking the time to weigh different perspectives and make choices that align with your own values is highly encouraged to ensure your wishes are kept in the way you intended.

Updating Your Will

Throughout your lifetime, circumstances and relationships are bound to change. When making big life-altering changes, it is important to periodically review your Will to reflect these changes. This will reinforce the authenticity of your intentions and minimise the likelihood of undue influence going unnoticed.

Whilst writing your Will is often an emotional process and a significant undertaking, it requires careful consideration to ensure your legacy is upheld how you intend. Understanding undue influence, recognising the signs and taking steps to implement safeguards that can help protect your wishes is of the upmost importance. By taking into account and using these top tips, you can leave behind a lasting legacy that reflects your final wishes.

Here at Howard & Over we have an expert team of Wills, Probate, and Estate Planning Lawyers who are here to help you to fully understand what is involved in writing your Will and the circumstances that may arise, no matter how complicated. Contact Howard & Over today for expert support and services.