Undue influence is a form of manipulation or coercion. It usually happens when there is a power difference between two individuals, such as when one is a caretaker for the other. When looking at estate planning, this manipulation is something that can happen to the elderly, but it can also have serious ramifications for their heirs.
Undue influence can also be a reason to challenge the estate plan. You may believe that the details laid out in that plan do not actually convey what the elderly individual would’ve wanted or what they actually intended to put in their plan. Someone else manipulated them to alter it. What red flags should you look for to know if something like this is happening?
A lack of equality
First of all, a severe lack of equality in the bequests can be a red flag. For example, maybe you have three siblings and all of you expected to inherit about a quarter of your parents’ estate. If one person inherits 75% and the other three of you are left to split the remaining quarter, this raises a lot of questions about why that would have been done. That doesn’t mean it is definitely undue influence, as people can and do leave unequal bequests. But it may mean that it’s time to look into the details a bit closer.
Sudden changes to the will
For example, you may find that the will was originally a bit more even, but was then suddenly changed. Maybe all of you lived far away from your parents, but one sibling moved closer to home to help take care of them as they got older. If you had all talked about the estate plan before and things were relatively even, but now things are in favor of that caregiver who lived at home, you may wonder if they used their position of power to manipulate your elderly parents into altering their estate plan.
If you do think that this has happened, then it’s time to start looking into all of your legal options.