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Friday, August 27, 2021

3 Questions to Ask if You Suspect Undue Influence in a Will

If an aging loved one starts behaving in a manner that concerns you, it could be the result of many things, including that someone is manipulating or controlling your loved one. Unfortunately, some people see the elderly as walking money pots who can be exploited.

You might discover that your parent recently made a new will but does not want you to see the document. If you have not had a falling out with your relative, you might wonder if someone strong-armed your loved one. A Florida estate planning attorney can offer advice in this situation. Here are 3 questions to ask if you suspect undue influence in a will:

Question One – Is Someone Trying to Isolate Your Parents?

Undue influence means that someone exerts pressure, threats, or other types of unethical techniques to cause someone to change their estate plan in a way that they would not otherwise do. It is easier to get someone under your control if you can keep them from visiting with or talking to other people. Manipulators often try to isolate their prey to make them more vulnerable to deception and control.

For example, it is difficult for the person who exerts undue influence to convince the older adult that her children do not care about her if she visits with them and talks to them on the telephone. The influencer will likely intercept phone calls by getting to the phone first and not passing on messages, or simply by turning off the phone ringer.

If you find it impossible to see or talk to your older loved one without this other person present, you should question why the individual does not allow your parent freedom or autonomy. Often, the person who uses this control tactic is a caregiver, neighbor, friend, relative, or a trusted authority figure. You might have to drop by unannounced and insist on seeing your loved one, or, in extreme situations, call law enforcement to perform a wellness check.

Question Two – Is Your Parent Being Secretive or Acting Suspicious of Previously Trusted People?

Making an older person distrustful of those who are their natural heirs or beneficiaries is a form of emotional isolation. A manipulator will try to discredit the people who are named in the current will so that the con artist can step into their shoes as the beneficiary of the older adult’s estate.

This tactic is particularly effective when used with an elderly person who has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. If you notice this shift in your loved one’s feelings about people he or she has treasured for years, you might ask for the specific facts behind the change. The next step would be to ask for the source of the misinformation to track down the influencer.

Question Three – Are the Terms of the New Will Significantly Different from Previous Wills?

Let’s say that you are an only child. Your parents have told you for decades that you are her sole heir. Recently, someone started paying lots of attention to her and has practically moved into her house. Your mother suddenly begins to act distant toward you and comments that she is getting a new will written.

If the new document leaves the bulk of her estate to this new person and cuts you out of the expected inheritance, you might have a case of undue influence. If you suspect undue influence was instrumental in the new will, you should talk to a Florida estate planning attorney before it is too late. Get in touch with our office today.


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The Law Office of Jeffrey A. Herzog, P.A. assists clients in Florida, including North Pinellas County, Palm Harbor, Trinity, West Pasco County, and the surrounding areas.



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