Undue influence when it comes to estate planning is the act of influencing the choices of another individual, many times against his or her own free will. It happens surprisingly often, including a recent case in Florida where caretakers defrauded an elderly woman out of over $1 million.
Since senior citizens are generally not physically strong and have begun to lose some of their cognitive faculties, they are particularly susceptible to the dangers of undue influence, even from loved ones. Although it can be difficult to prove undue influence took place, there are steps that can help prove a loved one's estate plan became altered against his or her will.
Things to prove
There are various indicators that typically suggest undue influence occurred. For example, perhaps a loved one's will leaves property or valuable assets in an unusual manner. Beloved family members are completely absent from the documents. That is a clear sign of undue influence. Typically, the influencer benefits greatly from the will, and the will-maker was particularly susceptible during the time the document received an update.
However, there are some cases that appear to be undue influence but are not actually. For instance, one adult child may call his father often to complain about his siblings. The child may even suggest leaving the siblings out of the will. However, as long as the father is of sound mind and still has the ability to exert control over the estate plan, then that is not undue influence.
One reason undue influence is difficult to prove is that the individual who made the will has already passed away. He or she cannot testify. However, other witnesses can show up to court to provide evidence associated with the relationship between the will-maker and the person accused of undue influence. Good witnesses to bring include doctors, caregivers and other family members.