Posted by Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC on April 21, 2022
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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.
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. At Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC, our probate litigation attorneys can help you fight to have your loved one’s wishes respected.
Possible Signs of Undue Influence
Knowing whether or not undue influence is occurring can be difficult, but there are some signs that could be red flags. 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.
Isolation – 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.
Dependency – 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. You may notice that a change was made to leave one person a larger inheritance. Close loved ones may have been removed from the estate plans, while the person receiving the large inheritance may be unexpected. This 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.
Protect Your Loved One’s Wishes with Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC
Realizing that your loved one may have been the victim of abuse and was taken advantage of while they were vulnerable is something no one wants to experience. The abuser who had undue influence over your loved one can be anyone, such as a relative, friend, or caretaker. If you have a reason to believe that your loved one’s will or trust was invalid due to undue influence, you shouldn’t wait to get help.
Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC understands how difficult this situation is. Contact us today to find out what your options are.
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