A well thought out estate plan includes a will, health care and legal powers of attorney, A revocable trust or a trust arising on death are common elements too. Powers of attorney, if they are well thought out, can provide peace of mind during a last illness or a severe disability. The estate planning documents created to distribute assets and debts on death have a major impact on how you are remembered and on the comfort of your loved ones after your death. These documents determine who receives property from your estate and who administers it.
Having full control over what happens to your property after your death is your basic legal right. Any adult of sound mind can dictate what happens to their personal property after their passing if they draft a will.
However, there are scenarios in which the documents someone leaves behind when they die will not accurately reflect their wishes. Undue influence could compromise the accuracy of an estate plan and also leave it vulnerable to challenges in probate court. What are some warning signs of possible undue influence?
Surprise, Last-Minute Changes
Many older adults are transparent with their family members about their specific estate planning wishes. They don’t want there to be unreasonable expectations, resentment, or confusion after they pass.
If your loved one was always very clear and outspoken about their legacy wishes but then updated their documents in the last years of their life without communicating with any family member, undue influence may be to blame.
Changes That Benefit Caregivers
Spouses, children, and even professional caregivers who live with or spend most days with vulnerable older adults could use their caregiving role as a means of manipulating or threatening that older adult. When a caregiver becomes the primary beneficiary or sole beneficiary of an estate after assuming that role, it is natural to be suspicious about whether those changes were truly the wish of your loved one or not.
Relationship Hurdles With No Obvious Cause
One form of undue influence involves alienating vulnerable adults from other family members and then blaming those people for not coming to visit. If your loved ones stopped answering your phone calls or if their caregiver consistently turned you away when you arrive for visits, the break in your relationship could be the result not of something you did but rather something the caregiver said or did.
Taking action in probate court could help you uphold your loved one’s true wishes and prevent someone from benefiting from pressuring, threatening, or coercing your loved one. If you are suspicious now, but your loved one is still alive, don’t hesitate to ask for help. You could save your loved one great stress, and rescue them from unrelenting pressure.