Probate, Estate Planning and Trust Law
Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo  Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo
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The problem of undue influence

One reason that someone in California may have to challenge a will signed by a deceased family member is because the relative believes the will was signed or composed under undue influence. We want our loved ones to work out their estate planning with an informed and clear mind. However, this is not always the case.

According to Findlaw, undue influence occurs when someone composes a will under the duress of a manipulator. The culprit will manipulate a vulnerable person into making a will that leaves most of his or her assets, if not all of them, to the manipulator. The phrase “undue influence” simply means that an individual lacks the free will to bargain due to the manipulator’s actions.

A piece by the Huffington Post goes into greater detail in how undue influence may happen. A manipulator may engage in a number of actions against a victim, including:

  • Telling lies to a person or at least half-truths
  • Harassing or pestering
  • Threatening
  • Isolating the person from facts or people who can help the person

Additionally, undue influence can happen to anyone. Although people that are older and physically more infirm are especially vulnerable, the truth is individuals that are young, strong-willed and driven can also be manipulated. Part of the problem is that an undue influencer can be anyone, from a friend, a family member, a caregiver, or a trusted advisor. Some manipulators who are not initially part of a victim's personal circle may work their way into becoming a victim’s advisor.

Generally, people will claim undue influence has occurred in a number of situations. These may include instances where there is discord between spouses or a blended family. Additionally, a sibling may charge that another sibling is unfairly manipulating a parent. Sometimes a family member may become suspicious if a new best friend of a family member shows up in the picture. Undue influence claims might also be made if a family member suffered from impaired memory or a medical condition that weakened the person's mental faculties.

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