Undue influence is widespread in both contract law and estate planning. It refers to the act of influencing parties to make certain decisions that go against their best interest. The elderly are common victims of undue influence.
This act tends to rear its head when it comes to creating wills. Family members may influence someone who is not of sound mind to alter a will. Accusations of undue influence can tear apart families, but it is vital for all parties to remain cognizant of it as a possibility to avoid any hardships after a loved one's death. Here are some of the most common ways undue influence manifests itself.
1. The will-maker becomes isolated
In the weeks and months before a person's death, members of the family should check in to see who spends the most time with the person. There have been cases where caretakers or family members oversee all of the family member's activities and prevent the person from making contact with others. This should serve as an immediate red flag.
2. The caretaker benefits the most from the will
Professional caretakers help a person carry out basic tasks, such as bathing and shopping for groceries. Sometimes caretakers are professional nurses while other times they are family members or friends. The person who assumes this responsibility should do it out of pure kindness or for a predetermined fee or salary. It is not unusual for caretakers to receive something in a will, but if this individual receives a suspiciously large portion of the deceased's estate, then it should bring up some alarm.
3. Important family members are not present in the will
Exclusion from a will does not automatically mean there was undue influence. However, if a person's children had a good relationship with their parent and those children are not present in the will, then something is likely wrong, although there could be other explanations for the exclusion. Perhaps the parent wanted to leave most of his or her assets to charity, knowing the children are financially secure already.