As we age or become ill, we rely on others to help us. Unfortunately, some people choose to act in their own self-interest by taking advantage of older people or those who are incapacitated in some way.
While stealing from an older, incapacitated person in this situation is a clear-cut case of elder abuse, there are also other, more subtle methods that unethical people use to benefit themselves. One of the most common of these tactics is the application of undue influence.
Let’s take a closer look at what undue influence means, and how you can fight it if someone you love is affected by it.
Understanding Undue Influence
Let’s consider an undue influence scenario: A woman in her 80s is suffering from cognitive impairment related to her age. A person she is acquainted with sees that the woman is becoming vulnerable and wants to take advantage. As a result, this person begins manipulating the older woman, convincing her over time to change her will to exclude family members and name the acquaintance as her new heir.
Sadly, such scenarios are all too common. Fortunately, the law provides a mechanism for rectifying such situations. In the scenario above, the excluded family members may go to probate court and contest the will, arguing it was changed as a result of undue influence.
To prevail, several factors must be established.
The will distributes the estate in an unusual or unexpected fashion, such as excluding close family members with no explanation.
Additionally, the petitioner should show the that the person who made the will was dependent on, or trusted, the person who applied undue influence.
Finally, the person who contests the will should establish the victim was susceptible to undue influence due to age or incapacitation, and that the person who applied undue influence benefited from the new will.
If these factors can be established, then it is possible to prove undue influence and overturn a will in probate court.
Finding the Right Undue Influence Attorney
The state of Connecticut has laws protecting its citizens from undue influence. It is imperative, however, to work with an attorney who is experienced in the field.
Undue influence cases may depend on subtle behavioral factors and require evidence or testimony that establishes a person was suffering from age or injury-related incapacitation. These cases, by nature, can often become fairly complex.
It’s also important to act aggressively if you suspect undue influence is occurring. Acting early in the process, if you suspect a loved one cannot make rational decisions and is being manipulated, may prove easier than fighting a probate action after that loved one has passed away.
No matter what stage of the process you are in, working with an experienced attorney can help ensure that your legal rights are protected.