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What is undue influence?

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2022 | Estate Planning

When dealing with estate plans, it is possible to come across the term “undue influence”. With luck, most people will not have to deal with a situation involving this. But unfortunately, it is a somewhat widespread problem.

What is undue influence, then? Why does it happen? And what red flags can a person keep an eye out for?

The target of a manipulator

Cornell Law School defines undue influence. In relation to estate planning, it refers to a situation where the writer of a will gets targeted by manipulators. There is usually just one manipulator working alone, but cases exist in which groups of people will target a victim together.

The goal of the manipulator is usually simple and involves gaining more control over the estate, or gaining a larger share of it during asset distribution after the will writer dies. They will often achieve this goal by forcing themselves into the position of executor or forcing their way into the will.

Tactics and red flags

The tactics they use range from straight out lying and deceiving a victim to more subtle manipulation tactics, like isolating the victim from their family members or loved ones and forcing them to develop a reliance on the manipulator.

This is also where one of the biggest red flags often first appears. Many of the victim’s loved ones will notice the moment a manipulator attempts to cut them out of the victim’s life. They will also often notice sudden changes in the victim’s opinions of a person, especially if it swings from overwhelmingly negative to positive. These things may cause enough suspicion for them to launch an investigation.