Creating an estate plan is a personal and often private process. It is important to make sure that your loved ones have the freedom and capacity to make their own decisions. Undue influence during estate planning can lead to questionable or even illegal outcomes.
Undue influence involves manipulation, coercion or persuasion that overpowers a person’s free will. It often involves a person in a position of trust who benefits unfairly from the influence. Recognizing the signs of undue influence can help protect your loved ones and their assets.
Signs of undue influence in estate planning
Changes in an estate plan, particularly when they favor one individual excessively, can signal undue influence. If your loved one has made sudden or drastic changes to their estate plan, especially favoring someone recently introduced into their lives, it might be time to ask some questions.
Another sign of undue influence is when a person isolates your loved one or takes over their affairs. If your loved one suddenly becomes less available or communicative, or if one person starts managing all their dealings, it can be a warning of undue influence.
Effect of undue influence on an estate plan
Undue influence can have a significant impact on an estate plan. It can change the distribution of assets, disinherit rightful heirs and create unnecessary conflict. The influenced decisions can lead to legal disputes and complications when executing the will or trust.
If you suspect your loved one is under undue influence, take immediate action. Communicate your concerns with your loved one and watch their interactions. Encourage them to seek independent advice and ensure they have a sound understanding of their decisions. You want to ensure that their estate plan reflects their true wishes and intentions, free from external manipulation or coercion.