Examples of Undue Influence in Families and Wills

Illness and age can make a person increasingly vulnerable, so when this happens to our loved ones, we hope that everyone around them has their best interests at heart. People in this situation depend heavily on the care of others. Unfortunately, some may use this to their advantage, harming the vulnerable person and their loved ones in the process.

In some cases, this can lead to the vulnerable person changing their estate plans to leave their assets to the person exercising control over them, also known as undue influence. Though we never want to believe it, your parents may experience undue influence by family members, caregivers, or other trusted individuals who do not have your parents or your best interests in mind.

Finding out that a loved one changed their will or other estate planning documents while in a vulnerable state can come as a shock. You want to know that their true wishes are followed, but proving undue influence can be a challenge. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the warning signs of undue influence and show examples of undue influence in a family so you can recognize it when it is happening to an elderly loved one.

Possible Warning Signs of Undue Influence

Undue influence comes in all shapes and sizes, but most examples of undue influence have several red flags in common. Of course, just because these signs are present, does not guarantee that undue influence is occurring. If you have suspicions that your loved one is a victim of undue influence, you need to discuss the situation with a probate litigation attorney to see what options you have.

The following could be possible signs of undue influence to watch out for:


Isolating a person from their loved ones is a common element in many abusive relationships, and can also occur in situations involving undue influence. If someone is trying to take advantage of a vulnerable person, they may limit the amount of time they’re able to spend with others.

The victim may have very little contact with others or may not be allowed to speak with anyone privately. Of course, isolating a person can also make it difficult for others to witness other possible issues and signs of abuse.


For undue influence to occur, the victim has to be vulnerable, such as due to illness or age. Because of this, it’s only natural that they will need to rely on others. However, this can be concerning if you notice your loved one depending on one person, especially if they didn’t previously have a close relationship.

Rather than a person genuinely trying to help a loved one, this may seem like they have an excessive amount of control over the vulnerable person.

Changing Estate Plans

It’s important to update your estate plans following major life events, but a significant change to a person’s estate plans towards the end of their life could be a red flag. Examples of undue influence in a will may include the following:

  • A change was made to leave one person a larger inheritance.
  • Close loved ones may have been removed from the estate plans
  • Someone may be receiving an unexpectedly large share of inheritance

Noticing these possible red flags for undue influence in a will is especially important if you know that your loved one did not have the mental capacity at the time their estate plans were changed to make these types of decisions.

Examples of Undue Influence by Siblings

In some families, siblings may be estranged from one another or one or both parents. This can be especially difficult for the family when it comes to estate planning. Parents may feel compelled to keep their wills evenly distributed to the siblings even if one or several are estranged. That’s when undue influence may come into play—when one sibling thinks the division of assets is unfair.

If you believe a sibling is committing undue influence, look out for situations such as:

The lawyer who has drawn up the will has suspicious connections.

If the lawyer happens to be someone your sibling is close to, whom in the past your parents have not worked with, there may be undue influence occurring by your sibling.

An absentee sibling suddenly shows up.

If your sibling has typically stayed away from family matters but now suddenly is interested in the health of your parent or parents, be mindful of their behaviors and actions–especially if they are trying to be a caregiver to the parent.

There have been sudden changes in assets.

If you have been the one in charge of your parent’s assets and there has suddenly been a change, be cautious and find out where those assets are going or how they are being used.

Your parents are experiencing elderly abuse or being threatened with entering a nursing home.

You know your parent’s wishes. If suddenly there is evidence of elder abuse, threats, or the fear of entering a nursing home against their will, a sibling or other family member may be taking dramatic actions against them or, is using fear to manipulate.

These are just a few examples of undue influence in a family. To learn more about undue influence, possible red flags, and your options for equitable remedies, download our free eBook, Understanding Undue Influence in Inheritance Cases.

Examples of Undue Influence in a Family by Caregivers

If a family member serves as a caregiver or has provided a caregiver to a parent or older relative, you would hope it is with good intentions. But sometimes, those we trust most with a loved one can let us down in the most harmful ways. If you suspect a caregiver of undue influence, be on the lookout for possible examples of undue influence such as:

The caregiver is speaking for the person.

Getting health updates from a caregiver is one thing. But when they suddenly are speaking on behalf of your parent, you may feel suspicious and concerned, especially if your parent or parents seem uneasy or withdrawn.

There have been drastic changes to the will or secrecy about its contents.

We’ve all heard horror stories about examples of undue influence in a will—such as children being written out of their parent’s wills only to find a caregiver has been named the beneficiary of the estate. If you suspect wrongdoing, request a meeting with the lawyer and your parents if possible.

If you suspect undue influence and are concerned about your parents and older relatives, trust your instincts. Alert nursing home staff if you are concerned about family members manipulating your parents and contact an attorney if you feel you need legal representation.

Combating Undue Influence with MHPS

Your family is your priority. Your parents have raised you and provided for you—now it’s time you protect them. By knowing the warning signs and understanding what to look for in examples of undue influence in a will or in a family, you can take action to make sure your parents’ last wishes are respected.

At MHPS, our Middle Tennessee estate lawyers have helped hundreds of clients contest wills in probate court. We understand what you will need for a successful claim and will work hard to make sure the person’s wishes are respected and followed.

If you have a reason to believe that your loved one’s will or trust was invalid due to undue influence, don’t wait to get help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and find out what your options are for pursuing a fair resolution.

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