Undue influence in families is an act of abuse, often by heirs victimizing elderly parents or family members to increase their will inheritance or trust fund distributions. Undue influence can be actual or implied, and proving undue influence is the responsibility of heirs, beneficiaries, trustees of trusts, and administrators or executors of wills. If you suspect undue influence and need to contest a will or dispute a trust, schedule a free consultation. We protect people like you, every day.
Undue influence is a form of abuse. Undue influence is the abusive act of applying emotional, psychological or even physical pressure on another person to secure a benefit that person otherwise would not give them. In the estate planning world, it’s usually to force them to change a last will and testament or family trust to give them more than their fair share. A textbook example often involves a new spouse or love interest who unduly influences their betrothed to bequeath to him or her a vacation home that had been previously intended for the parent’s children. This is most classically done with threats, emotional abuse, or withholding sex and affection.
Generally, we see stepparents applying undue influence on an elderly spouse, resulting in the stepparent’s inheritance increasing, and the children’s inheritance decreasing. We also frequently see abusive children applying undue influence on their elderly parents to increase the size of their inheritance in a last will and testament, or increasing their trust fund distributions.
If you suspect undue influence, you should consult a trust litigation attorney early to ensure critical evidence isn’t lost and you’re in the best position possible to take right that wrong.
SOMETHING TO KNOW
Going to Court, or Not
Undue influence cases are frequently resolved without going to court. We understand that not every case needs to be litigated. We counsel clients early and often on the relative and ever-changing strengths and weaknesses of their cases. Utilizing “leverage” to put ourselves in the best position possible, we secure the best results for our clients, whether that is through negotiated settlement, mediation, or trial.
EXAMPLES OF UNDUE INFLUENCE
The most common examples of undue influence in families that we see include the following:
Stepparents unduly influencing mom or dad
The most common situation we address is a stepmother using undue influence to coerce her husband to increase her inheritance or trust assets, thereby taking assets and monies away from other heirs, including her stepchildren.
Children unduly influencing elderly parents
Equally common, we see abusive children threatening elderly parents in attempts to gain favor, or “get more in the will” than their brothers and sisters.
Caregivers unduly influencing elders
With some frequency, we protect children from losing their inheritance to caregivers who unduly influenced decedents.
Brian Levin represents individuals and families in a variety of matters, including probate and trust disputes. He has represented parties from throughout the world, and is also frequent speaker on securities, and investment-related topics. Mr. Levin graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy. He then attended the University of Miami School of Law where he graduated cum laude.
If negative outcomes were feared by the victim, it may be undue influence. If specific abusive acts can be detailed to the court, it may be duress. What does this mean? By law, proving duress requires that the victim provide the court specific details relating to acts the abuser committed, which forced the victim to make a decision or commit an act that he or she otherwise would not have done. An example of duress would be physical abuse by the abuser, ex., hitting the victim until they gave the abuser valuable jewelry.
Today’s technologies make contesting a trust easier than you think. We have substantial experience working with remote clients who never physically come into our offices, provide hard-copy documents, and physically never go to court, yet we’ve been able to help them obtain their rightful inheritance and trust distributions. Whatever challenge you may be facing that may make addressing an estate conflict, will contest, or trust dispute difficult if not impossible, we’re here to let you know that help is out there.
& Trust Attorneys
At RMO, our probate lawyers and trust litigation attorneys have the experience to effectively assist beneficiaries, heirs, families, and clients. Our attorneys have been recognized by SuperLawyers, AVVO, and Martindale-Hubble as the best in their fields.