One of the reasons courts may set aside a person’s will is if there is reason to believe the testator was unduly influenced. This can be a difficult legal obstacle to overcome, especially if you are not sure what undue influence is or looks like.

Below, we examine some aspects of this concept and what you can do if you suspect someone you love is or was the victim of undue influence.

Legal definition

Undue influence involves a person in a position of authority manipulating a vulnerable adult to do things he or she may not otherwise do. It is a form of abuse and typically is for the purposes of financially benefitting the perpetrator.

Undue influence claims can arise when an elderly person is dependent on others for care or has passed away and leaves a will that seems suspicious.

Signs and risk factors

A person can be at a higher risk of being unduly influenced if he or she suffers from dementia and does not have close relationships with friends or family. Someone with unusually close relationships with young romantic partners or a care provider could also be in a position to experience undue influence.

If you are worried about undue influence, look for the warning signs. Some of the ways a person will attempt to manipulate a victim include:

  • Isolating the person from his or her loved ones
  • Withholding care or medication until he or she does what the abuser wants
  • Lying about how loved ones feel about the victims
  • Instilling fear and distrust in the person to make him or her reliant on the abuser

You might also use this screening tool to help you determine if undue influence is likely.

Pursuing legal action

People have the right to use their will to express their wishes. As such, disagreeing with your loved one’s will or end-of-life care decisions is likely not going to provide enough support for a legal claim. Even if the alleged influencer helped a person with his or her will, there may not be grounds to contest a will.

You must be able to show that the testator was vulnerable and the victim of coercion by the other party (or parties).

To better understand the requirements of these claims and to get detailed guidance on building a claim of undue influence, concerned parties can contact an attorney.