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Vulnerability to undue influence rises after major life changes

| May 4, 2021 | Elder Law

In the arena of elder law, accusations of undue influence can arise in legal disputes about wills, trusts, contracts and financial transactions. Undue influence emerges within a relationship where one person benefits after convincing or misleading a vulnerability person into making a financial decision that would not normally have occurred. Loneliness, loss of mobility, the death of a loved one or a deterioration in health can make elderly residents in Missouri more receptive to an influential person who chooses to exploit them. Moving from a home to a retirement community presents another scenario when change can disrupt a person’s previous sense of control and authority.

Four elements of undue influence

From an elder law perspective, proving undue influence relies on satisfying four elements. These include:

  • The victim appears medically or psychologically vulnerable.
  • A relationship exists between the victim and influencer.
  • The influencer employed tactics like isolating the victim, promoting dependency or preparing legal documents.
  • The victim suffers monetary loss.

The person’s condition need not be outright dementia. Someone of sound mind can still fall prey to manipulation. Influential people who take advantage of a person’s trust can come from several sources, including:

  • Caregivers
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Family members
  • Financial advisers

Signs of undue influence

Family members are not always the first to see signs of changes in a person’s approach to handling money or an estate plan. Stockbrokers, estate attorneys or bankers might witness the first warning signs of strange activity. For example, a lifelong client with a conservative investment strategy may suddenly invest in a new business venture put forward by a neighbor. In another situation, a person might want to reassign power of attorney to an individual who appears to be a questionable choice. A potential victim might resist explaining their choice.

Concerned people might even overhear the influencer coaching the elderly person. Documenting events is very important when trying to dispute financial transactions motivated by undue influence. You will need to show a shift in normal behavior and demonstrate the self-serving nature of an influencer’s actions.