Undue influence is a term most people will likely not come across in their lives until they have to deal with estate planning, especially with elderly relatives.
Unfortunately, undue influence cases happen more often than one would want to think. It is important to notice potential red flags and signs that might indicate undue influence accordingly.
What is undue influence?
Cornell Law School looks into undue influence as a phenomenon. It involves at least two figures: the manipulator and the victim. In some cases, there are multiple manipulators in play, but this is much rarer.
In terms of probate or estate planning, a manipulator is generally after one of two things. Either they want to have a larger share of the estate’s assets, or they want more power over the estate itself, such as by becoming estate executor.
Tactics to watch for
They will use manipulation tactics and other abusive techniques such as isolation in order to break down a victim’s defenses and mental health, thus making them pliable to suggestion.
Loved ones often start to pick up on these red flags when isolationary tactics get used. This happens when a manipulator tries to remove the victim from any other contacts so they cannot get second or third opinions and are less likely to notice something is wrong.
Outwardly, it manifests as the manipulator refusing to allow the victim to meet one-on-one with others, even family members. They may also give excuses as to why a victim cannot meet, such as having a “booked schedule” or always being busy.
Likewise, if a person notices anything out of character in the victim, this might also indicate a potential problem. This can include unexpected favoritism of the manipulator, such as giving them more in their will.