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Understanding Undue Influence in Estate Planning

 Posted on October 12, 2023 in Estate Planning

California Estate Planning LawyerMany of us are aware of the benefits of estate planning, understanding it to be an excellent way to ensure your assets are appropriately distributed after you pass away. However, in some cases, the deceased’s intentions may be compromised due to undue influence. Undue influence refers to exerting pressure or manipulation on a person, leading them to make decisions that they would not have made on their own. If you have concerns that undue influence may be a factor as you or a loved one make an estate plan, contact a skilled lawyer in California to ensure that this fear does not come to fruition. 

Further Defining Undue Influence 

Undue influence happens when a person takes advantage of their position of power or authority to manipulate someone’s decision-making process. In the context of estate planning, it refers to situations where a person, often a close family member or caregiver, uses their influence to persuade the person creating the will, also known as the testator, into making decisions that favor their interests or go against the testator’s wishes. 

Here is What Undue Influence Looks Like

Recognizing undue influence is not always easy, as it often happens behind closed doors and without direct evidence. That being said, there are some common characteristics that can indicate the presence of undue influence, including: 

  • Isolation – The perpetrator may try to isolate the testator from friends and family, limiting their access to outside perspectives and support.

  • Dependency – The perpetrator may try to make the testator dependent on them, sometimes having them rely on them for personal care, financial management, or emotional support. 

  • Dominance – The perpetrator may try to control the testator’s decision-making process by instilling fear, intimidation, or emotional manipulation.

  • Unequal or unfair transactions – The perpetrator may manipulate the testator into making unequal financial transactions, such as transferring assets or changing beneficiaries, without a proper reason.

How to Protect Vulnerable People from Undue Influence 

To safeguard vulnerable people from falling victim to undue influence, a few preventive measures can be taken, including:

  • Early planning – Encouraging people to create a comprehensive estate plan while mentally competent enough can help prevent last-minute changes under suspicious circumstances. 

  • Legal guidance – Seeking help from legal counsel can help ensure that the testator’s wishes are accurately documented and protected against potential challenges.

  • Witnesses and video recordings – Having witnesses present during the creation of the estate planning documents, or even recording the process, can provide evidence of the testator’s capacity and voluntary decision-making. 

Contact a Los Angeles, CA Estate Planning Lawyer

For legal guidance in estate planning, contact the experienced L.A. County, California estate planning attorney with Law Office of David Schechet. Call 800-282-4731 for a free consultation.

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