Not many people believe that their family or their loved ones could be the victim of undue influence. That is something saved for fiction that adds an exciting twist to a story.
However, undue influence is one of the most common reasons people contest the will of their loved one during probate.
Unfortunately, there is no stable definition
The definition of undue influence varies by state. Illinois law states that undue influence occurs if something prevents the creator of the will from establishing or executing their wishes. And the influence must connect directly with the execution of the will during probate.
That is a broad definition that leaves undue influence open to interpretation. However, that can be a good thing. Undue influence can take various forms.
Signs of undue influence before probate
Without a solid definition, it is often easier to spot the signs of undue influence. The National Adult Protective Services Association lists some of the indicators of undue influence, including:
- The influencer isolates the elder from their family and friends
- The influencer speaks ill of the elder’s children, grandchildren or close family
- If there is a visit, the influencer is always present
- The elder’s level of independence shifts drastically
- The elder exhibits severe mood swings and memory changes
- The influencer takes charge of all of the elder’s financial matters
These are only a few of the common signs that someone is under undue influence. However, there is one aspect that almost always accompanies undue influence. The influencer is searching for financial gain. Significant wealth and assets are not necessary. Many of these influencers know how to manipulate people to get what they want.
Undue influence during probate
The signs of undue influence sometimes do not surface until the probate process. In probate, undue influence often appears as:
- Unexpected gifts or assets given to the influencer
- The will resembling the influencer’s wishes instead of the elder’s
Undue influence is a form of elder abuse. Regardless of whether the signs of undue influence appear before or after probate, families can contest the undue influence to protect their loved one and their wishes.