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What is 'undue influence'?

A parent's job is to protect his or her children. However, parents get older and start suffering with declines to their physical and mental health. At that point, it is up to the children to protect the parent.

One way to do this is to watch out for signs of something called undue influence. Undue influence involves one person in a position of power or trust taking advantage of a vulnerable or weak person by depriving the person of his or her free will. Undue influence is one of the most common elements of probate litigation, so it is important that you understand what undue influence might look like.

Romantic relationships

There are many red flags to watch out for if your elderly parent starts a new relationship. Is the other person very young? Does he or she seem motivated by money? Is your loved one being isolated from you or turning against you since getting into the new relationship?

Caregiver/receiver relationships

Many victims of undue influence are people who rely on the care and kindness of nurses, aides and doctors. Some of these relationships do become very real connections involving love, compassion and trust. However, if these people use their role to put pressure on a patient to change a will, give them money or sign over property, it could be a case of undue influence.

Familial relationships

Sadly, family members are often sources of undue influence. An estranged child or sibling may come back into the picture when a parent gets sick and suddenly start doting on the person in an attempt to manipulate him or her. There might also be a family member who tries to convince an aging parent that no one else in the family can be trusted, and therefore he or she should change his or her will.

What to do if you suspect undue influence

If you believe that your parent is being pressured to do things that are not in his or her best interests, it is crucial that you take action. As noted in this Forbes article, you should speak up, stick by them and watch out for suspicious behaviors and financial transactions. Consulting an attorney will also be wise if you believe an estate plan was the result of undue influence.

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