Unfortunately, some unscrupulous persons prey on individuals who are vulnerable or in some way dependent on others. Often, these are individuals who are ill or elderly. A common abuse in these situations is the exercise of undue influence. Undue influence is the manipulation of a vulnerable person for personal gain or advantage by exploiting their natural impulse to provide for loved ones, give to charity or reward care givers.
One of the most common ways for a claim like this to emerge is in the wake of someone’s death when family members discover that a person seemingly close to the elderly loved one, like a caretaker or personal friend, has suddenly become the recipient of a large sum of money or of particular assets that family members were expecting to receive.
Sadly, family members in Arizona may not be aware that undue influence has played a role in their loved one’s estate plan until after the loved one has passed away. This is primarily because the person causing the undue influence has many reasons to keep the changes in the estate plan very quiet. Family members who suspect that the deceased individual was taken advantage of as a result of undue influence, however, do have recourse if they suspect that foul play was involved.
If you suspect undue influence, you must file a complaint in probate court. This can be done whether or not a probate petition has been filed to probate the will and distribute the assets inside the estate. The person filing the claim has the responsibility for explaining and proving the undue influence. It can be extremely difficult to demonstrate that your loved one was under someone else’s coercive influence during the process of making or changing an estate plan. An experienced trust and estate lawyer can help you know whether or not the facts of your case will support an allegation of undue influence.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding How to Help Your Executor With Your Estate Plan, or any other estate planning matters, please feel free to contact Stephen L. West at 480.461.5341, or Curtis M. Chipman at 480.461.5329. You can also log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.