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Undue influence and free will

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2022 | Estate Planning |

Estate plans can be very unique and can be built in different ways. One person may just have a will, for example, while the other person has a much more complex plan that includes a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), a trust and power of attorney. It all depends on exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.

But one thing that is true in every situation is that the estate plan has to be made of that person’s free will. It has to honestly and genuinely reflect their wishes. When this doesn’t happen, it can call the entire plan into question.

What is undue influence?

One way that this happens is when someone uses undue influence to cause the elderly person to act in a different way than they would have normally. This is a form of manipulation.

For example, imagine that there are two siblings and an elderly parent. One sibling lives near the parent to take care of them, while the other lives in another state.

Perhaps realizing what they stand to gain when their parent passes away, the nearby sibling begins manipulating them to change their estate plan. Perhaps they threaten not to care for them in the future, for example. Maybe they begin making up lies about the other sibling to turn the parent against them.

Either way, their end goal is simply to get their parent to change the will and leave them more of the financial assets. This type of manipulation means that the will doesn’t necessarily reflect what the elderly person wanted, and a court that finds evidence of undue influence will not uphold that estate plan.

As you can see, it’s very important to understand how complicated estate planning can be and to take all the proper steps to avoid these types of issues and disputes. Make sure you know what options you have.