If you have an aging father, you may have had a few conversations about his end-of-life wishes. For a variety of reasons, creating a comprehensive estate plan is an effective way to ensure your parent keeps some control over what happens to assets after death. Still, if someone exercises undue influence over your loved one’s estate plan, you may not be able to trust its accuracy.
Minnesota statutory law does not specifically define undue influence. To understand the concept, you must look at case law. Fortunately, courts across the state have defined the concept hundreds of times. Generally, in estate planning, undue influence occurs when someone uses a close connection to put his or her will over a person’s actual wishes. If you plan to challenge the validity of a loved one’s estate plan, you have the burden of proving undue influence. Watch for signs that someone may be influencing your parent:
You probably know your mother or father as well as anyone. As such, you may be able to tell whether your parent has become too dependent on someone else. While not proof, dependency is often an indicator of undue influence.
Typically, family members and close friends are the beneficiaries of an individual’s estate plan. If your parent’s plan removes logical heirs and replaces them with someone who would not otherwise inherit property, undue influence may be the reason. This is especially true if there is no logical explanation for the arrangement.
While anyone can be the victim of undue influence in estate planning, those with mental impairments are often easier to persuade. If your loved one has dementia, Alzheimer’s or another mental impairment, you may be able to convince a court that he or she did not have the capacity to knowingly execute an estate plan.
If you suspect someone has exercised undue influence over your parent’s estate plan, you may need to advocate for his or her best interests. By understanding how unscrupulous individuals may interfere with your loved one’s wishes, you can better plan for reasserting them.