Undue influence is a major issue in estate planning. However, most people will likely go their whole lives without ever hearing this term, up until they have to deal with an older relative and their estate plan.
What exactly is undue influence? What should a person know about it? How can it potentially disrupt the flow of the estate plan and impact everyone involved in the estate?
What is the goal of manipulation?
Cornell Law School defines undue influence in regard to estate planning. In general, undue influence refers to a situation that involves a manipulator and a victim. Sometimes, there are multiple manipulators, but it is often just one person working toward their own end.
In regard to estate planning, the manipulator often wants something out of the victim’s estate. They may want a bigger share of the assets, or they could want greater power over the estate itself. The way they do that is through underhanded and manipulative tactics, or by exploiting potential weaknesses of the victim, such as if they have memory problems due to age-related dementia.
It is possible for the loved ones of a victim to pick up on red flags that may indicate someone trying to exert manipulative control over the victim.
Techniques manipulators use
For example, many manipulators will attempt to isolate the victim so they have less of a gauge for telling something is wrong, and so fewer people have a chance to step in. They may do this by lying about how open the victim’s schedule is, disallowing victims to speak one-on-one even with their own family members.
Of course, if someone suspects a person of undue influence, they can take it to court. This is a lengthy process but well worth it to protect a loved one.