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The What, Who, and How of Undue Influence (And How To Protect Yourself)

The What, Who, and How of Undue Influence (And How To Protect Yourself)

Image of a senior person's hands symbolizing vulnerability to undue influence

Most will be familiar with the names of at least one of these famous people: Groucho Marx, (movie actor, comedian) Pauly Shore (movie actor, comedian) and Stan Lee (founder of Marvel Comics and creator of Spider-Man). 

Why do I mention them and what do they have in common? 

They’ve all been involved in legal proceedings involving a claim of undue influence.

So what is undue influence and how can it impact us and our loved ones? Let’s have a look. 

What Does Undue Influence Look Like?

When it comes to our personal estates, we plan carefully to ensure our families are provided for after we’re gone (and also to establish our legacies). However, even the most careful estate planning may not be able to prevent undue influence. 

Undue influence refers to a person who exerts influence over another person’s estate in a manner that takes advantage of the person’s close personal relationship. A person exerting undue influence will typically attempt to separate the victim from family and to foster in him or her a sense of dependency on the influencer.

 As people age, they can become more vulnerable to influence because they often need outside assistance. Gradually, the victim may come to see the influencer as his or her only support system and may choose to leave all – or a hefty portion of – his or her estate to that influencer.

Who Is Most Vulnerable to Undue Influence?

While there are endless ways that undue influence can occur over a loved one, some courts have said, “I know it when I see it.”  Still, there are very common circumstances where the most vulnerable are subject to undue influence.  

 In other words, anyone who significantly relies on help from others on a regular basis is more vulnerable to undue influence; but even a healthy individual can succumb to a skilled manipulator.

 Examples include:

  • People with disabilities
  • The elderly
  • People who suffer from physical ailments
  • People suffering from dementia

Virtually anyone can exert undue influence over a person’s estate plan. Some common culprits include close relatives, a member of the extended family, a friend or a caregiver. 

How Can You Resolve Issues Related to Undue Influence?

This is never an easy situation.

But for people who suspect that undue influence has taken place, there are solutions. For example, a will contest could be started. If the victim is still alive, a court-ordered guardianship may serve as the proper solution.

When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. Skilled estate planning attorneys can handle this type of complex legal issue and should be consulted when undue influence is suspected.

If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, call us toll-free at 855-FLA-ESTATE or at 561-955-8515 or click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.

The Siegel Law Group, P.A., is a Law Firm in Boca Raton, Florida that focuses on comprehensive Estate Planning and Elder Law Planning for clients throughout South Florida. Our team is dedicated to providing compassionate counsel and effective legal representation in matters pertaining to Estate Planning, Elder Law, Probate and Trust Administration, Asset Protection Planning and much more.

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