What is undue influence?
Updated: Sep 27
Undue influence is a legal term that most people will not come across. It most often surfaces in issues or matters related to probate of one’s estate, or estate planning in general.
What is it? Why is it a potential problem? And how does one potentially identify the red flags that may indicate it is happening?
Defining undue influence
Cornell Law School defines undue influence. In specific, related to estate planning, undue influence occurs when one party exerts influence over another: i.e., the manipulator(s) and the victim. The victim is the grantor of the estate, the person to whom the estate belongs and the author of the will in question.
The goal of the manipulating party in this equation is usually one of two things. They want more power to control the estate, such as getting named the executor, or they want more of the estate itself. They often aim to achieve this by having an unfairly large portion of the estate granted to them via the will.
Keeping an eye out for red flags
It is possible to keep an eye out for red flags that this is happening to a loved one. First, pay attention to any attempts at isolating them. For example, does a nursing aid simply refuse to allow family to visit the victim? Do they always have an excuse as to why a meeting cannot happen?
Look for sudden and unexplained changes in the will or estate itself, too. A victim often gets tricked, coerced or manipulated into kicking certain people off of the will or removing them from power to put in the manipulator instead.