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Know what to do if you suspect ‘undue influence’ on an estate

Here’s the sort of shocker that many people experience after a loved one dies: The will, which once divided everything fairly among the heirs, somehow became slanted to heavily favor just one relative. Maybe everyone else is even completely cut out of the new will. Perhaps all the relatives are cut out and suddenly a “dear friend” now stands to inherit the deceased’s entire estate.

It happens more often than people realize. Quite often, it has to do with something called “undue influence” over the deceased prior to their death.

What is undue influence?

Undue influence includes a variety of manipulative behaviors designed to twist a party’s free will around and have them act in a way that is abnormal for them. It’s a term generally used to describe what happens when someone manipulates a person of means, often elderly, into writing them into their will, writing others out of their will and giving them large cash gifts or other valuables.

How does undue influence happen?

It’s important to understand that most undue influence is brought about through psychological abuse rather than physical abuse. Friends, caregivers, professional advisors and family members can all exert tremendous psychological influence through the use of love, guilt and fear in order to get what they want out of a senior who is either mentally or physically declining. The more dependent the senior is on the other party, the easier it is to exert undue influence.

Often, people don’t recognize undue influence is happening until it’s already occurred — simply because the influencer is usually smart enough to keep things behind closed doors. Once it becomes apparent, however, it’s smart to seek legal assistance to contest the will or other proceedings as quickly as possible. For more information, contact our office directly or continue reviewing our site.