If your loved one is aging and finalizing or changing an estate plan, it is important to take stock of who is a current presence and potential influence in his or her life. Unfortunately, there are people who will take advantage of the elderly and attempt to use their position to influence the drafting of a will and the distribution of assets. If the pressure is great enough, you may have a claim for undue influence. It is important to recognize the signs of undue influence in your loved one’s life so that you can intervene.
What is Undue Influence?
Undue influence occurs when a person in a position of power or influence over an elderly person uses that position to heavily influence or coerce the creation of a will in favor of the influencer. It is important to note that undue influence requires a great deal of influence; simple suggestions are not enough to meet the standard. It must be shown that the influence was so great that it was sufficient to destroy the free agency of the person making the will. Oftentimes, this influencer is a family member, close friend, associate, or caregiver to your elderly loved one.
Signs of Undue Influence on the Testator
One of the most common indicators of undue influence is when your loved one creates or significantly alters the contents of a will after spending time with the influencer, conveys real property, or makes significant gifts. There are some signs that you should be aware of to indicate that someone may be trying to take advantage of your elderly loved one by exerting undue influence over his or her decisions. These signs include the following:
- A loved one’s increased and unusual reliance on the influencer
- Increased isolation of your loved one, often facilitated by the influencer
- Sudden changes in your loved one’s financial accounts or accessibility
- Decisions by the influencer for your loved one that indicate a conflict of interests
- Changes made to a will or estate plan when a person is/was experiencing periods of confusion, memory loss, or dementia
- Heavy participation by the influencer in the drafting of the will
- Urging of secrecy and expediency by the influencer in the creation or alteration of the will
- Your loved one stops making phone calls to family members and stops visiting friends, family members, etc.
- The influencer prohibits visits under the guise that the person “needs rest” or “cannot be disturbed”
- The influencer frequently moves the person around to different living environments in order to prevent contact and visits
- Your loved one is unaware of where the original will and/or trust is located
- Your family member visits an estate planning attorney recommended by the influencer
- Your loved one visits a financial advisor recommended by the influencer
There are other signs your can look out for, so speak with an estate planning attorney today to learn more.
Call or Contact an Attorney Today
Undue influence can be a difficult challenge to prove, so it is critical that you secure the services of an experienced estate planning attorney. Call or contact The Martin Law Firm at 215-646-3980 to learn more about this.