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How to Spot Undue Influence in Estate Planning

Estate planning is a complicated process where different family members have to interact with each other in new ways. Family members, during this process, can be caught in vulnerable positions and taken advantage of, both financially and emotionally. Undue influence is a common occurrence during estate planning, which refers to the manipulation of a vulnerable person that interferes with their natural free will to gain their assets or property. Here are some warning signs to look out for if you’re suspicious that someone is exploiting you or your family member.

Misusing Their Authority

You might notice that someone in your family is using their seeming or actual authority to coerce or influence someone else. This authority could be an individual that is the family breadwinner, the main family health care provider, an involved legal professional, an estate planning expert, or anyone else that has assumed authority in the estate planning process. Watch out for anyone who is inappropriately using their position to manipulate you or a loved one to gain more power and control.

Abusing Another’s Vulnerability

Another sign of undue influence to look out for is whether the persuader in question is targeting a loved one or family member that is physically or mentally vulnerable in some way. These vulnerabilities include disability, age, mental illness, education, emotional worry, or any other weakness that would leave that person unable to make a complete and coherent decision.

If the influencer is exerting any sort of controlling or manipulative actions toward another vulnerable family member, you should stop and have a conversation with the persuader, or talk to the other people involved in the estate planning. Intimidating another family member that is an ill and/or vulnerable will maker (or any other vulnerable person involved in the estate planning) is a form of abuse. If you believe that a family member is being emotionally or financially abused, contact us at Beyer, Pongratz & Rosen for a consultation.