When it comes to crafting a will or estate plan, it is important to ensure that the decisions made reflect the true intentions of the individual involved. However, there are instances where external pressures or undue influence can manipulate these crucial documents.
Being vigilant and recognizing potential red flags that may indicate undue influence in the process are ways to protect your loved ones.
Sudden changes to beneficiaries
One of the clearest warning signs of undue influence in estate planning is abrupt alterations to beneficiaries. If a will or estate plan significantly deviates from prior versions or expectations, it could be a result of outside pressure. Pay close attention if a new individual emerges as a primary beneficiary without a clear explanation.
Isolation of the testator
Undue influence often thrives in isolation. If the individual creating the will becomes increasingly secluded, it could signify an attempt to control their decisions. This isolation can be physical, emotional or both, as manipulators seek to diminish the influence of others who might act as safeguards.
Inconsistencies within the will or estate plan may raise suspicion. Look for disparities between the testator’s expressed wishes, previous documents and their current decisions. A sudden disregard for longstanding relationships or charitable intentions may indicate undue influence at play.
Pressure or manipulation tactics
Watch for signs of coercion or manipulation tactics. This could include constant pressure from a particular individual, threats or emotional manipulation aimed at swaying the testator’s decisions. Such tactics often manifest as a desire to control the testator’s assets or financial affairs.
Testator’s mental or physical decline
19.86% of the American adult population is experiencing a mental illness as of 2022. A declining mental or physical state can make an individual more susceptible to undue influence. If the testator’s capacity to make rational decisions is questionable, it is important to be extra vigilant in assessing the circumstances surrounding their estate planning.
Unusual relationship dynamics
Take note of unusual relationships within the testator’s life. If a new, influential figure emerges suddenly, especially one with a vested interest in the estate, it warrants investigation. Be cautious if this individual seems to have complete control over the testator’s affairs.
It can help to seek guidance to ensure that the final will or estate plan truly reflects the intentions of the person it represents. Every moment matters when a loved one is facing a harmful influence.