In Pennsylvania, individuals have broad discretion to dispose of their estates as they see fit. Therefore, Pennsylvanians often draft wills and other estate planning documents to keep property from passing through the commonwealth’s intestacy laws. Sometimes, though, these documents do not reflect their author’s true intentions.
Undue influence happens when someone supplants his or her wishes over those of the estate planner Often, the undue influence ends up with an unfair share of the planner’s estate to the detriment of the planner’s heirs. Here are three signs a loved one may be vulnerable to undue influence.
1. Poor mental health
As individuals age, they often become forgetful. While forgetfulness may not interfere with a person’s ability to distribute his or her assets, deteriorating mental health may make someone vulnerable to undue influence. That is, if an estate planner can no longer advocate for his or her interests, an undue influencer may try to capitalize.
Due to age or infirmity, individuals may have to move into a nursing home and away from friends and family members. If an estate planner feels a sense of isolation, he or she may gravitate toward new acquaintances or health care providers. These individuals may take advantage of the planner’s loneliness to coerce him or her to rework an estate plan to favor them.
Many families have members with both strong and meek personalities. If an heir buffaloes an estate planner to receive an oversized share of the planner’s estate, undue influence may be to blame. This may be particularly true if the heir is a new addition to the planner’s family.
It is tragic when someone nefariously takes control over another’s estate plan. Ultimately, if undue influence has played a part in an estate plan, contesting the plan may be the most effective way to protect its writer’s legacy.