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How a position of power impacts undue influence

On Behalf of | Aug 26, 2023 | Estate Planning |

Undue influence is sometimes alleged when it seems that one heir has influenced a person’s decisions while making their will or their estate plan. Other heirs may feel that they didn’t get what they deserved and that the estate plan doesn’t reflect the elderly person’s true wishes.

But this doesn’t mean that any influence at all qualifies as undue influence. Say that there are two siblings, and one of them lives closer to home. That sibling suggests to their parents that they should get a larger percentage of the inheritance since they’ve been around more, whereas their more distant sibling should get less. Simply suggesting this is not a problem, and the parent may choose to go along with it.

But it can turn into undue influence when the decisions made seem to subvert the elderly person’s own will or desire. To do this, a position of power is often needed.

The role of a caretaker

One example of how this could work is if the sibling who lives close to home is the caretaker for the elderly parents. Maybe they help them run errands, pay the bills, clean the house or do other things of this nature. They may even use this as justification when asking for a larger portion of the inheritance.

But what if they threaten the elderly parents by saying that they won’t provide the care they need unless the estate plan is altered? That could be undue influence because they are using their position of power to manipulate the estate plan so that it no longer lines up with what their parents would have wanted. This type of manipulation could be illegal because an estate plan needs to be made of someone’s free will.

You can imagine that a situation like this can get very complicated. Be sure you know what legal steps to take.