When diving into matters involving a decedent’s estate, it is important to note that testators can face numerous unexpected hurdles. One of these hurdles is the possibility of someone attempting to manipulate them to gain hold of the estate after the testator passes away.
Undue influence may occur in such a situation. But what is this, and what should others know about it?
The aims of a manipulator
Cornell Law School defines undue influence in regard to estate planning. Undue influence often involves the targeting of a testator – usually one not in a stable state of mind – with the ultimate goal of defrauding, manipulating or tricking them into giving up control over their estate or portions of the estate.
In short, the manipulator often aims for a bigger chunk of assets under the Will or for a position of power in the estate itself, like wanting to get named as the Executor.
The “bad actor” will use tactics of fraud and manipulation to do so. A popular technique involves isolating the victim from their other loved ones and contacts in order to influence their opinion without outside notice. Another popular tactic involves simply tricking an elderly individual into signing documents they do not fully understand by abusing their trust, forcing the victim to give away their rights or assets.
Red flags to watch for
A giveaway red flag that something is amiss includes sudden changes happening to parts of the Will or other documents of the estate plan, especially when they all revolve around the same person. If anyone close to a testator notices these things happening, it would be a good idea to potentially take action to investigate the situation further.