An older adult’s physical and mental limitations make them easy targets for abuse and fraud. To protect them as they age, you may trust a variety of people to look after their mental, physical, and financial needs. Sadly, the people you trust to care for them are often the ones who take advantage of them in their final years.
After your loved one is gone, you may find that their will, trust or Estate Plan has changed. Even worse, you may suspect that your loved made those changes under duress or under “undue influence.” Yet, how can you prove it?
Recognizing the Signs of Undue Influence
Undue influence occurs when an authority figure, friend, or family member influences an elderly or disabled person for their own benefit.
An example of undue influence is an older sibling convincing their elderly parents to leave the entire estate to them. In doing so, they prevent their siblings from receiving any inheritance.
To protect your loved one and their estate, it is important to recognize the signs of undue influence.
Some of the most common signs of undue influence include:
- Unexpected Gifts. When courts are considering a claim of undue influence, they look for any unexpected gifts or purchases. Significant amounts of property or money left to people other than the decedent’s family and friends raises red flags. For instance, an elderly woman with a large family who leaves half of her estate to her caretaker would raise concerns of undue influence.
- Mental or Physical State. Courts also examine the decedent’s mental and physical state. Frailty, dementia, and other medical conditions could leave someone susceptible to undue influence. Being dependent on others may make an elderly person feel as if they “must” compensate their caregiver in order to receive proper care.
- When trying to influence an elderly person, the individual will often try to isolate them from their family and friends. This is an attempt to make the elderly person dependent, so they leave their estate to the influencer. Disabled individuals and those with mental handicaps are especially susceptible to undue influence.
- Special Relationships. When courts are evaluating a claim of undue influence, they may examine any unusual or special relationships. A caretaker that spends too much time with the decedent, a niece or nephew that visits more than they used to, or a neighbor that helps “manage” their finances are all examples of special relationships. While a special relationship does not mean undue influence is occurring, it is something to watch out for.
An estate plan should provide peace of mind to both grantors and beneficiaries. Unfortunately, suspected undue influence could jeopardize the entire estate and the future of the family. That is why it is important to contact a trust litigation attorney in Los Angeles as soon as you suspect undue influence.
Contact Our Trust Litigation Attorneys in Los Angeles
Taking advantage of an elderly person or the grantor of a trust is wrong. Any changes to a trust, will or estate plan while an individual was being manipulated could be invalid.
If you suspect mismanagement, neglect or fraud, contact the trust litigation attorneys at the Aslanian Law Firm, P.C. We can handle trust litigation cases throughout Los Angeles and across the state of California. Give us a call at (626) 345-7210 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a free consultation and review of your case.