Undue Influence: Manipulation And Estate Planning

The elderly and those unable to care for themselves are among the most vulnerable in our society. Sadly, unscrupulous individuals may exert undue influence to take advantage of their vulnerabilities. This can include encouraging changes to estate plan documents.

With help from StachlerHarmon in Dayton, you can take legal action against undue influence.

Understanding Undue Influence

Undue influence occurs when an individual manipulates another person's decisions. Generally, the influencer is in a position of power over the person being influenced. To have grounds for undue influence, you must be able to prove:

  • Your loved one's will designates property to beneficiaries in an unexpected way. For instance, the will excludes close family members and leaves property to another beneficiary, seemingly without a reason.
  • Due to physical, mental or emotional frailty caused by illness or age, the author of the will was vulnerable to undue influence.
  • The beneficiary who exerted influence was someone whom the author of the will trusted or relied upon, such as a caretaker, relative, lawyer or accountant.
  • The beneficiary took advantage of the situation and benefited from undue influence over the author of the will.

Family members who suspect undue influence after a loved one passes away may wish to enter probate litigation and contest the will. A judge may determine that the influencer used undue influence over the testator, which invalidates the will. When the court concludes that a will is invalid, all property and assets belonging to the deceased are distributed according to a previous valid will or by Ohio's intestate succession laws.

Spotting The Warning Signs

Unfortunately, because the influencer wants to keep changes to estate plan documents hidden, family members may not realize a loved one was manipulated until after his or her death. However, even the subtlest influencers leave evidence. Be on the alert for any of the following signs:

  • The influencer attempts to isolate your loved one.
  • The influencer begins to take charge of your loved one's affairs and life, including handling financial matters.
  • Your loved one fails or refuses to engage in family activities, holidays or other activities that he or she previously participated in.

End The Influence

If you suspect undue influence over a loved one, there are legal remedies. Speak with one of our probate attorneys at StachlerHarmon. Call us at 937-608-9398 or 800-645-2911 or reach us online.