Individuals work hard to develop a comprehensive estate plan to ensure the proper distribution of property when they pass away. Unfortunately, many people can suffer the effects of undue influence without even realizing they are being manipulated.

What is undue influence?

Various organizations define the topic in different ways. The American Bar Association states that undue influence means “excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will.” It is important to examine four factors in determining whether an action was the result of undue influence.

  1. Vulnerability of the victim: In this context, vulnerability can refer to incapacity, disability, age, education, emotional distress or cognitive function. Essentially, anything the influencer can exploit to take advantage.
  2. The influencer’s apparent authority: The influencer might exhibit authority through status as a fiduciary, family member, health care provider or spiritual adviser.
  3. The actions of the influencer: Did the influencer control medications, access to information or access to loved ones? Did the influencer coerce or in other ways intimidate the victim to make changes?
  4. The equity of the result: There must be evidence of inequity such as economic consequences suffered by the victim.

A will contest – or any type of estate dispute – can be a complex, emotional matter. Whether you are challenging the validity of a will or defending an elderly loved one’s estate plan, it is crucial that you have a skilled legal professional fighting on your side.