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What are the risk factors for undue influence?

Making changes to a will is a common experience, but sometimes these changes are caused by undue influence. International Psychogeriatrics published research outlining the risk factors for undue influence in older people, but first, the legal construct must be defined. “To be undue influence in the eye of the law there must be – to sum it up in a word – coercion. The coercion may of course be of different kinds, it may be in the grossest form, such as actual confinement or violence, or a person in the last days or hours of life may have become so weak and feeble that very little pressure will be sufficient to bring about the desired result.” 

It may take a legal advocate to help you demonstrate that a loved one’s will was unduly influenced, but most wills written under undue influence begin from one of the following relationships: 

  • An adult child who cohabits with the elderly person
  • A distant family member taking care of the person
  • A younger suitor taking advantage of the situation
  • A professional who helps an older person take care of his or her will 

Helping an elderly person with his or her last bequeaths is not undue influence on its own. The person who is helping the will-writer must benefit from the will, and there must be some kind of coercion. One example of coercion is keeping loved ones from seeing the will-writer. Many times, it takes several people to unduly influence the will-writer. For example, a helpful neighbor colluding with a personal friend who is an attorney to help the will-writer make out a will that benefits the neighbor. 

If you have an elderly family member who may be under the influence of another person, you should stay proactive in your loved one’s life. You should discuss your concerns with an experienced attorney who can help you take steps to protect your loved one. If you believe the will of your family member was rewritten through undue influence to benefit another person, you may have to challenge the will in court. 

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