Your mother has been careful about keeping the family estate intact, just the way your dad left it to her when he died. Now she suddenly wants to change her will.

You suspect a distant cousin who has recently entered your mom’s life may be trying to influence her in terms of making major decisions, and that includes making changes to her will. Is there anything you can do to find out more about Cousin Myrtle’s motives in befriending your Mom?

Get closer

Myrtle has been spending a lot of time with your mom, so you may find it wise to spend more time with her too. If you cannot be with her physically, then keep in close touch by phoning and emailing. She will likely open up about this new relationship, so you can make a better judgment about the possibility of undue influence. In addition, it will be more difficult for Myrtle to supplant you in your mother’s life once she sees how close you are with your mom.

Have a word

Suggest the three of you get together over lunch or dinner, and take the opportunity to ask the distant cousin some leading questions. Be straightforward; this kind of frank conversation will let you know where things stand. Depending on the outcome, it may also lower Cousin Myrtle a notch or two in your mother’s estimation.

Access Mom’s accounts

Ask Mom to give you access to her banking records. You can keep an eye on them online and flag any suspicious transactions or withdrawals to discuss with her.

Keep undue influence top of mind

The term “undue influence” refers to pressuring someone to do something that benefits the influencer, but is not in the best interests of the person being pressured. If you believe Cousin Myrtle’s sudden interest in your mom is behind the idea of changing her will, honest confrontation may be necessary to avoid future problems. Otherwise, a will contest will almost certainly arise after your mother passes on.