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With the increase in complexity of today's family structures and the dynamics that can result, the family members of a loved one who has passed away often find themselves in a position in which they question the validity of their loved one's purported estate plan.  The family members may doubt that the decedent's disposition actually reflects his or her wishes, and as a result, the family may want to challenge the will's validity.  In order to successfully do so, the family members typically must file a will contest action.  In such actions, the court is asked to disregard the decedent's will and instead provide a distribution of the decedent's estate which more closely resembles what the decedent actually intended.  The family members must allege that there are grounds for setting aside the decedent's will, including the following:

  • Undue influence—A will contest on the basis of undue influence involves the issue of whether the decedent, of his or her own free will, made the distribution provided in his or her estate plan, free from coercion by another individual.  In Pennsylvania, a person challenging a will on the basis of undue influence must demonstrate the following elements: 1) a confidential relationship between the proponent of the will's validity and the testator; 2) the proponent of the will's validity receives a substantial benefit under the will; and 3) the testator had a weakened intellect.

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