Spiro J. Verras Blog

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Undue Influence in Estate Planning

What Circumstances Could Give Rise to a Claim of Undue Influence?

An estate plan is intended to represent the last wishes and desires of its creator. With an estate plan, you can direct whom you want to receive your hard-earned assets, name a guardian for any minor children, and address your own healthcare needs. Sadly, at times, vulnerable individuals are pressured or tricked into creating an estate plan that does not actually represent their wishes. Undue influence is a significant issue in estate planning, particularly when an elderly or ill individual is involved. Our Tampa Bay, Florida elder law lawyers define undue influence and what you can do if you suspect undue influence has occurred below.

Undue Influence Defined 

Undue influence occurs when a person persuades another’s decisions due to the relationship between the parties. Often, undue influence occurs when one party is in a position of power over another or the person who is taken advantage of is highly dependent on the influencer. The elderly and those with memory problems like Alzheimer’s are most often the victims of undue influence. Often, family members will not realize their loved one has been taken advantage of until after their death, when suddenly a distant relative, caretaker, or even a stranger is named as the recipient of the elderly individual’s assets.

Should this situation arise, the loved ones of the family member who appears to have been taken advantage of can bring a claim of undue influence in court. A presumption of undue influence may arise when a person who is set to receive assets through a will or trust has a confidential relationship with the person who made the will or trust. A confidential relationship could be formal, as in the case of a financial planner, or informal, like a caregiver.

If you suspect that your friend or loved one has become the victim of undue influence, you will want to consult with an elder law attorney. Your attorney will review the facts of the case to determine whether grounds exist to support a claim of undue influence. If the evidence indicates as such, the court could potentially declare the will or trust invalid. 

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