Stachler Harmon Attorneys at Law
3 Tips for Avoiding Accusations of Undue Influence
Your siblings were fine with your offer to take care of Mom, but would they feel the same if they knew that now she wants to change her will? It seems fair that because you rearranged your life to help her, she should acknowledge that with a financial award. However, you do not want them to accuse you of manipulating her from your position as her caregiver, especially if you fear it will lead to a court battle.
The Legal Information Institute notes that the party who accuses you of undue influence has the burden of proof in the case. Here are some suggestions that may keep anyone from successfully challenging you in court.
1. Document Everything
You should be able to show your siblings—and a judge—that you have not been exploiting your mother’s finances, you have been honoring her wishes since you began helping her, and all assets are either present or accounted for. When you use her account, create a paper trail, and avoid using the ATM whenever possible since cash is hard to trace.
2. Encourage Communication
Ensuring that your siblings have access to your parent and that she can call, email, text or see them at any time may go a long way toward transparency. It may also help preserve their relationship with her and with you, which could prevent hard feelings from developing in the first place. Still, even if you do not get along, they will at least be able to note that you are not attempting to isolate her, and that she is in good mental and emotional health.
3. Make Sure Mom Has Her Own Attorney
Contesting the validity of a will may be much easier for your siblings if you and your mother fill out do-it-yourself forms together at home. When she creates or makes changes to her document, you want it to be unquestionably legal, so the less you are involved in the process, the better. A good estate planning attorney may be able to help your mother make the choices that are right for her while ensuring that her estate plan is airtight.