What is Undue Influence?

A screenshot of a Michigan Last Will and Testament document with a stamp of Undue Influence imprinted in the middle of the imageElderly individuals often struggle with the proper management of their finances and assets as they age and lose mental acuity. Because of this, they rely on others they trust for advice and assistance in management of their finances. These people are commonly family members and friends who they know well.

Unfortunately, there are those who seek to exploit this trust and manipulate older vulnerable persons into making their wills unusually favorable to them, giving them a good portion of their wealth and/or assets. This is referred to as undue influence, which is a common issue many families of the elderly face. There are many warning signs of undue influence, which family members need to be aware of to prevent their elderly loved ones from being taken advantage of. More often than not, undue influencers are caretakers or someone who has recently entered an elderly loved one’s life such as a romantic partner.

Signs of Undue Influence

One of the most common indications that an elderly parent is possibly being manipulated is reduced communication with their family. In this instance, family members might notice a reduction in regular phone calls or in-person visits from their elderly loved one. Undue influencers will do their best to isolate the testator from their friends and family. They do this by convincing the testator that their other family members are not trustworthy or do not care for them as much as they do.

An additional tactic used to separate the elderly from their families is to take up as much time and attention as of the testator as possible. Influencers do this in order to prevent family members from receiving their loved one’s attention in the same amount as they might otherwise have had. The influencers goal for all of this is to isolate the testator in order to make persuasion easier.

Another sign of an elderly person being manipulated by undue influencers is the taking over of meetings, appointments or other types of gatherings for the testator. They do this by taking advantage of the fact that elderly persons often need assistance with or are incapable of making appointments and managing their schedules. The influencer will take over control of any meetings, often telling the testator they need rest and it’s for their best interest. In many cases the influencer will require their presence at meetings and may prohibit family members from meeting their elderly loved ones completely.

Meetings scheduled for revising or editing the testator’s will should be viewed with scrutiny as there is a possibility influencers will use these meetings to change the will to heavily benefit them. This is usually the last stage of undue influence after the influencer has already manipulated the elderly testator by isolating them from their family and gaining control of their schedules and appointments. Influencers will usually convince the testator to give them a sizable portion of their estate and/or assets in the will using emotional manipulation tactics and guilting. If it is suspected that a will has been manipulated as a result of undue influence, it is possible to contest the will in probate court.