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What are some signs of possible undue influence?

Creating a will or estate plan is an important step in ensuring that beneficiaries get the correct assets. However, undue influence occurs when someone exerts improper pressure or manipulation over a person, causing them to make decisions they would not have otherwise made.

Here are some signs to watch out for when assessing the potential presence of undue influence.


One common sign of undue influence is the isolation of the elderly person from friends and family. If someone notices that the individual has become increasingly distant from their loved ones, it may be a red flag. Isolation can make it easier for an influencer to gain control over the person’s decisions.

Sudden changes

Drastic and unexpected changes in an elderly person’s will or estate plan may indicate undue influence. If they have previously expressed different intentions and then suddenly alter their plans, it is important to investigate the reasons behind this shift.

Inexplicable beneficiaries

If beneficiaries or individuals who stand to gain from the will have no apparent connection to the elderly person, it raises suspicion. Undue influence often involves manipulators attempting to secure assets for themselves or others with no legitimate claim.

Pressure or threats

Pay attention to any signs of coercion, pressure or threats. Influencers may use fear or intimidation tactics to achieve their goals.

Mental capacity

Considering over 20% of people age 60 and older suffer from some kind of mental disorder or neurological disease, it is not hard to see how some people could take advantage of elderly sick people with significant savings. Assess the elderly person’s mental capacity at the time of creating or amending their will. If there are concerns about their ability to make informed decisions, it may be indicative of undue influence.

Unusual gifts or financial transactions

Keep an eye out for unusual financial transactions or large gifts made to the influencer. These can be attempts to reward the influencer for their manipulation.

Excessive involvement

An influencer who becomes overly involved in the elderly person’s financial affairs or decisions may be trying to gain control over their assets. Look for signs of a disproportionate level of influence.

Conflicts of interest

Identify any conflicts of interest that may exist between the influencer and the elderly person. A genuine concern for the individual’s well-being should be the driving force behind any decisions made.

Vigilance can help prevent the exploitation of vulnerable individuals in this critical aspect of financial planning. Paying attention to who talks to elderly adults and for what reasons is just the start of this method of protection.

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