What to Do About Undue Influence

Undue influence is when a person — usually sick or elderly — is influenced by another person to make changes to an estate plan that doesn’t reflect their true wishes. Sadly, cases of undue influence are one of the main reasons for estate litigation. When a person lacks the mental strength and is pressured by another person to update their estate plan for personal benefit, undue influence can occur. If this sounds like something you believe may have happened to your elderly or sick loved one, you need to meet with an attorney right away for assistance. 

Scenarios of Undue Influence

Undue influence is often a misunderstood occurrence. Many people think that undue influence can only happen if the elderly person suffers from a condition such as dementia, or otherwise lacks mental capacity. However, this is not always the case. While this is one possibility, it can also happen when the elder is of mental strength but doesn’t feel like they can resist pressure from the ill-intentioned person. Another way that undue influence can occur is if someone is on their deathbed and is handed a document to sign, which they do not comprehend but are so weak that they go along with it anyway.

As you can imagine, suspecting that this happened to their loved one can be heartbreaking and fill them with anger, understandably. By consulting with an experienced estate litigation attorney, family members can seek to hold the offending person accountable for their shameful misconduct and personal benefit motivations. 

At the End of Life

An elderly person is more vulnerable to undue influence when they are in the last few months or year of their life. This person may be suffering from an illness and lacks comprehension, or they don’t have the strength to fight against demands. Close family members of an aging loved one who is living out their last few months, are strongly advised to keep a close eye on them to prevent undue influence.

Sometimes, random “friends” or outside family members that haven’t been seen in a very long time will show up to help this relative. Their intentions may appear decent enough to others, but their motivations could be to take advantage of this elder. This person may threaten the elder that if they do not go along with the demands that they will stop helping them out. Then after the elder passes away, loved ones may be notified that they were recently disinherited from the estate plan. This is a major red flag that undue influence is likely to be a factor, and contacting an attorney is necessary. 

Contact an Attorney

As a loved one of an elder family member, you may not want to imagine that your relative was taken advantage of in their last remaining months of life. The scenario may be too much to even think about as a possibility. However, if the signs are there then you must take action right away, to fight for your loved one’s legacy and how they would have preferred their assets to be distributed after passing away.