Undue Influence on the Elderly
Signs Of Undue Influence On The Elderly’s Trust And Will
One of the most delicate aspects of dealing with a person’s will is determining if there is undue influence on the elderly when it comes to their trust, will, or Special Power of Attorney (SPA).
Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure on the testator, the person making a will, SPA, or trust, to the point that the contents of the will do not serve the best interests of the testator but of the person who is exerting undue influence.
Oftentimes, the person exerting this undue influence is someone close to the testator – an immediate family member, a close friend, or a next-door neighbor. The person typically influences the testator to include him or her in the will, often asking for a portion of the testator’s cash, jewelry, or property.
The elderly, particularly those suffering from a medical or psychological condition, are vulnerable to giving in to such influence, so most questions over conservatorship have something to do with the presence of undue influence.
This legal problem is prevalent in many US states including California, which is why measures were undertaken to define undue influence and study how it affects the validity of a person’s will, trust, or SPA.
Back in 2009, California’s Superior Court, County of San Francisco, conducted a study to gain a better understanding of this phenomenon and address its lack of definition under the existing California Probate Court.
The study specifically aimed to have clear definitions of undue influence not just in the sense of it happening in the past, but when it is considered as imminent, ongoing, or has the possibility of recurring. Further, it aimed to serve as a guide for courts to have guidelines to effectively rule better on conservatorship petitions where undue influence is alleged to be present.
So, what constitutes undue influence and how can you tell that is present in your elderly’s will, SPA, or trust?
Signs Of Undue Influence On The Elderly
The testator becomes suddenly isolated.
People who are exercising undue influence over an elderly testator normally don’t want other people to talk to the latter in fear of their scheme being discovered. They usually find ways to isolate the testator from other people who could discover the undue influence being done to the testator.
This sudden isolation of the testator is, therefore, one key sign to look out for.
The testator gets relocated frequently.
A concrete sign of possible undue influence is when the testator making a will, trust, or SPA becomes frequently relocated by someone close to him or her. This method is just a way of ensuring that no other person can get close to the testator and accidentally find out about the scheme.
The contents of the will, SPA, or trust suddenly changes during periods of vulnerability.
As mentioned, elderly people are highly vulnerable to experiencing undue influence when they are suffering from a medical or psychological disability such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, or memory loss.
It is thus critical to do a comparison of the testator’s will before the onset of such vulnerability and during such time that the vulnerability is being experienced.
There is a glaring benefit to the person suspected of causing undue influence.
If the benefits contained in the testator’s will, SPA, or trust are glaring and defy logical explanations, it could be an indication of undue influence on the elderly testator.
While this may be hard to prove in court, experienced lawyers have ways of getting to the bottom of things and proving that there was, indeed, an undue influence made on the elderly to benefit a person close to the former.
The suspect becomes increasingly involved in managing the testator’s daily life.
Yet another red flag of undue influence on an elderly is when someone close to him or her gets increasingly involved to the point of manipulating the testator’s daily functions. This could include having control over the elderly’s medication, finances, and decisions.
What Happens After Proving Undue Influence?
As with other legal cases, the burden of proof lies on the party challenging the validity of an elderly’s will, trust, or SPA.
However, if successful, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that there was the undue influence exerted by someone over an elderly testator could inevitably invalidate the will, trust, or SPA.
What factors will the court consider when deciding on the presence of undue influence?
Courts typically consider several factors when deciding whether or not undue influence was made on an elderly person’s SPA, will, or trust. Among others, these factors include:
There is a discrepancy in the distribution of the testator’s properties versus what other people remember the testator telling them about the distribution.
The beneficiary was the one who chose the witnesses to the will, trust, or SPA.
The testator had a documented mental, emotional, or psychological problem during the course of drafting the will, trust, or SPA.
The beneficiary recommended the lawyer who prepared the document.
The beneficiary was there when the will, trust, or SPA was being made.
The assumed beneficiaries were suddenly left out of the will or trust without any sound explanation.
The discrepancies in the earlier and final versions of the testator’s will or trust are glaring.
Do You Suspect Undue Influence? Get Help From An Experienced Wills Lawyer
My name is Andrea Aston, and I’m one of California’s leading estate and trust lawyers handling cases where there is a challenge to the validity of a testator’s will or trust. I’ve successfully proven the presence of undue influence on the elderly who were manipulated by people they trust into making trusts and wills that unfairly or solely benefit the latter.
As a steady hand for countless California residents who need expert help on many legal issues, I’ve managed to build a solid client base over the years.
Thanks to my experience, I can make the trust and estate planning process simple, stress-free, and affordable for all clients.
I’m also available for cases concerning probate. Probate is a costly and long procedure best avoided if possible.
Do you have a legal concern about estate planning, trusts and wills, or SPAs? Don’t hesitate to call today at (760) 758-1565 for a free consultation.
I’ll be more than happy to schedule an office visit, visit at your home, or do a virtual consultation. I promise only the best legal advice and representation with the guarantee that I will do everything I can to ensure that you’ll get the legal help that you need.
So, call now!
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