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4 examples of undue influence in estate planning

There’s nothing worse than being coerced into something that makes you uncomfortable, i.e., being a victim of undue influence. Undue influence is when a person uses their relationship with someone else as leverage to pressure said individual into making a decision, even if the decision can harm them.

It’s typically based on a power structure like a boss/subordinate or dominant friend/submissive friend. Undue influence also occurs in estate planning matters when someone — usually an influential family member — forces a testator into drafting a will or trust that contradicts their wishes.

Below are four examples of how an individual can use undue influence to control a testator:

Taking advantage of their illness

People battling dementia are vulnerable to undue influence since they have poor memory and decision-making skills. An unscrupulous family member can use this vulnerability to their advantage by manipulating the testator into giving them a larger share of an estate or funds.

Using guilt-trip tactics

Also known as an appeal to pity, someone might say something like: “If you don’t give me my fair share of the money, I’ll be very sad. And you don’t want to break my heart, right?”

Utilizing blackmail

Perhaps the testator harbors a secret known only to a manipulative party. And the manipulative party threatens to expose it if the testator doesn’t comply with their demands.

Badmouthing other family members

Suppose a cousin is jealous that their aunt’s children are getting a large sum. So the jealous cousin tries to dissuade her from leaving money to them by spreading nasty rumors about their “rotten” behavior.

It’s awful for a person, especially a family member, to use a testator to make unwanted changes to a will (this hurts the intended beneficiaries, too). If you or someone else is a victim of undue influence, consider reaching out to experienced legal guidance for help.

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