Recognizing signs of undue influence in estate planning

On Behalf of | May 29, 2024 | Estate Planning

Undue influence in estate planning is a serious concern. Manipulating elderly individuals is a form of financial abuse and can distort the true intentions of a senior’s will or estate plan. Understanding and recognizing signs of undue influence is crucial for protecting seniors.

Understanding undue influence

Undue influence occurs when an individual exerts excessive pressure on a senior, affecting their estate decisions. It often involves manipulation by someone the elderly person trusts, such as a family member, caregiver, or friend. The person with undue influence gains financially from these changes.

Signs of undue influence

One clear sign of undue influence is sudden changes in the will or estate plan. If a senior suddenly alters beneficiaries or the terms of their will in ways that seem out of character, it could indicate undue pressure. This is particularly suspicious if these changes benefit one individual disproportionately.

Another indicator is isolation from family and friends. People exhibiting undue influence often restrict the senior’s interactions with others to exert more control and influence. If you notice that an elderly person becomes increasingly isolated, it’s important to investigate who is controlling their access to others.

Unusual financial transactions are also a red flag. This could include new, unexplained withdrawals, gifts, or changes to property titles and financial documents. These transactions might indicate that someone is manipulating the senior to reroute assets.

Dependence on a particular person can also signal undue influence. If a senior seems to rely increasingly on someone who stands to benefit significantly from changes in their estate plan, this dependency could be a product of manipulation.

Secrecy about estate decisions is another concerning sign. If the elderly person is reluctant to discuss the details of their will or estate, or if it appears they are not making these decisions independently, this secrecy could suggest that someone else is directing these decisions behind the scenes.

Taking action

If you suspect undue influence, take immediate action:

  • Consult with an attorney: They can assess the situation and suggest ways to address it.
  • Encourage open communication: Talk openly with the elderly person about their estate decisions. Offer support and let them know you are there to help.
  • Seek a medical evaluation: If possible, ensure the senior has a comprehensive health check. It can help determine their susceptibility to undue influence.

Ensuring estate integrity

Seniors and their families need to be vigilant and proactive in safeguarding against these risks. It’s essential to take steps to ensure that all estate planning reflects the true wishes of the elderly person without external pressures.