Is your loved one being unduly influenced?
“Undue influence” is a legal term that refers to a vulnerable person, such as an older or ill individual, being influenced by someone else into doing something that doesn’t reflect their actual wishes. For seniors, this often comes in the form of someone manipulating a senior into signing a will or coercing them into giving someone control over their financial affairs.
In order to prove undue influence, you need to show that the victim was susceptible because of a physical disability, physical dependency and/or mental or psychological condition. You also need to prove that the person exploiting them had an opportunity to assert their influence, that they actually did so and that they received some sort of benefit under suspicious circumstances.
Signs of undue influence include a senior becoming isolated from friends and family; signatures on documents looking different from past signatures; sudden and unexpected purchases or withdrawals of cash; and/or an unexpected or unrelated person suddenly speaking on the senior’s behalf.
If you have an older relative who exhibits any such signs, it would be a good idea to examine their finances, will and other estate planning documents and to get in touch with an elder law or estate planning attorney to help you determine the next steps you need to take. These can be challenging cases to prove, but the sooner undue influence is detected, the easier it is to address.