If you have an aging mother or father, encouraging your loved one to draft a comprehensive estate plan makes sense. After all, well-written estate plans often minimize disputes. They also honor your parent’s wishes. Of course, sometimes, someone exerts undue influence over the estate planning process.
According to the National Center for State Courts, undue influence occurs when someone exploits trust, dependence or fear to control another’s decision-making or assets. Still, uncovering undue influence over elderly individuals can be challenging. Here are three warning signs:
Maintaining frequent, ongoing and effective communication with an aging parent can be challenging. If your mother or father has dementia or Alzheimer’s, you may face additional obstacles. Still, if your parent starts to disconnect or otherwise limit communication with you, someone may be trying to isolate your loved one. As you may suspect, isolation often makes elderly individuals susceptible to undue influence.
2. Excessive control
Your elderly loved one may need assistance with a variety of ordinary tasks. Having a caregiver to help with medical appointments, household duties and everyday care may make sense. If your parent’s assistant begins to exercise too much control over his or her actions, though, you may have a problem.
3. Planning changes
Finally, you must watch for changes to your aging loved one’s estate plan. Wills, trusts and other formal documents often name beneficiaries. If someone new stands to benefit from your parent’s estate plan, you should likely investigate whether that person has asserted undue influence over the planning process. This is particularly true if a new estate plan disinherits long-standing heirs.
Undue influence may take a variety of forms. Still, you can likely protect your aging parent’s interests by watching for early warning signs. With a bit of effort, you may be able to uncover undue influence before it harms your parent, his or her estate or you.