Elderly individuals experiencing loneliness and dementia are highly vulnerable to being taken advantage of through “undue influence.” This unfortunate reality is all too common, especially when the senior citizen has a significant amount of money and/or capital assets. The number of seniors in American society has been continually growing at a rapid pace in recent years because of the heavily populated baby boomer generation. It is essential that friends, family members, neighbors and business colleagues step up and become familiar with warning signs of undue influence in order to protect the seniors they care about. 

What is Undue Influence?

The broad definition of undue influence under California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15610.70 is when one person uses excessive persuasion to overcome another person’s free will and causes them to act or refrain from acting, resulting in inequity.

The exertion of undue influence can occur anytime a senior adult is making financial decisions of any kind about his or her future. If, for example, a court is making a decision regarding whether or not a person was under undue influence in connection with provisions for a will, the following factors may be taken into consideration:

  • How vulnerable the victim is as evidenced by such things as age, isolation, dependence, emotional distress, illness, level of education, disability, and injury.
  • Whether or not the person who allegedly exerted undue influence, also called the “influencer,”  knew about or should have been aware of the victim’s mental capacity or vulnerability.
  • Apparent authority of the influencer over the victim in the influencer’s position as a healthcare provider, family member, fiduciary, caregiver, or some other type of adviser or expert.
  • The influencer’s tactics, which may include:
    1. Intimidation or affection was used to persuade the elder to take certain actions.
    2. Controlling social interactions with others.
    3. Exerting control over the elderly person’s medical care.
    4. Changing the personal or property rights of the individual.
    5. Controlling the medication or transportation of the victim.
    6. Preventing the elder from getting the needed sleep.
    7. As a result of the alleged undue influence, there has been an inequitable outcome.

Individuals are protected from undue influence in the State of California in establishing trusts, wills, and conservatorships.

Examples & Signs of Undue Influence

An elderly person may be tricked or coerced by an influencer into creating or altering a will. Evidence must exist that the testator (the owner of the will) was coerced by the influencer into preparing a will that reflects the influencers’ wishes.

The following are signs of undue influence to look for in seeking to protect an elderly person from taking actions they are coerced into taking:

  • There is an increased and unusual dependence on the influencer.
  • Out of the norm loans or financial arrangements to unusual individuals for unwise or questionable reasons.
  • The influencer is causing the elder to be increasingly isolated.
  • Without explanation, the elder is frequently relocated. This is precipitated by the influencer for the purpose of distancing the victim from family members.
  • Unusual activities or financial transactions occur that the victim does not recall or won’t explain. 
  • A will or estate plan is changed during a period when the elder was experiencing dementia, memory loss, or confusion.
  • Decisions made for the elder by the influencer that indicates possible conflicts of interest.

If any signs of undue influence have occurred, there may be legal grounds to challenge an elder’s will and have the court set it aside. This action helps to ensure that the legacy of a loved one is not a reflection of the influencer’s interests.

Contact The Legacy Lawyers Today

If you are concerned that your loved one is currently or was under undue influence before passing away, contact The Legacy Lawyers. The attorneys at The Legacy Lawyers offer many years of combined experience which include handling complex cases involving elder abuse and elder law. Call us today at (800) 840-1998 for legal assistance from seasoned litigators, or fill out our contact form.