Signs of Undue Influence (and How it Affects a Will)

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2022 | Estate Planning

A will serves as a person’s legal declaration of their wishes for the distribution of their estate. However, for too many willmakers with diminished capacity, a will becomes a tool for someone else to use for their own financial gain.

Under these circumstances, concerned parties could contest the will on the basis of undue influence, which is influence someone exerts on a testator that is so powerful that it overrides the person’s free will.

Possible red flags of influence

If you are worried that your loved one is at risk of being manipulated by someone else or already has been influenced, you can look for signs.

Some of the indications that someone is attempting to exert influence on your loved one include:

  • Isolating the victim from caretakers and family
  • Unnecessarily accompanying them on trips to the bank 
  • Bringing the person to see a different attorney than they usually work with
  • Changing the person’s care routine
  • Relocating them to a less expensive facility
  • Taking over the person’s financial affairs
  • Unpaid bills or canceled utilities
  • Neglecting their hygiene and safety while claiming to be concerned about their welfare

Typically, a person may not know or want to admit they are victims of this type of abuse, so it often falls on others to prove these claims. These red flags suggest that someone is taking advantage of your loved one. 

Is your loved one at risk?

Influencers use their position to get a vulnerable person to give them money or access to finances they would not receive otherwise. They target people who are easier to manipulate and who are not under careful observation. 

Thus, someone you love could be at risk of this abuse if they:

  • Have dementia or memory loss
  • Do not have regular, consistent interactions with other family members
  • Struggle with communication
  • Rely on a caregiver who is untrustworthy, mentally unwell or experiencing financial hardship

If you suspect your loved one is at risk of or has already been affected by undue influence, immediate action is crucial. Remedies may involve putting protective legal estate planning measures in place to prevent abuse, separating the influencer from their victim or asking the courts to set aside an invalid will.