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3 red flags that may signal undue influence in estate planning

Drafting a comprehensive estate plan is one of the more effective ways to protect a person’s assets. After all, without one, intestacy laws control what happens to an individual’s real estate, personal property and other assets. Of course, wills and other estate planning documents are only meaningful if the person drafting them exercises his or her free will. 

If your elderly mother or father has an estate plan, you can probably expect it to reflect his or her true wishes. That is not always the case, though. Sometimes, interested individuals unduly influence estate planners, essentially supplanting their wishes over your relative’s. If you uncover this type of deception, you may need to contest the estate plan. Here are three undue influence red flags you may notice: 

1. Sudden changes 

You likely know your parent well. Accordingly, you may be able to predict the contents of his or her estate plan. In the presence of unexpected or drastic changes, though, you may need to question whether someone is unduly influencing your loved one. This is particularly true if the estate plan suddenly recognizes new beneficiaries or excludes traditional ones. 

2. Isolation 

Absent certain factors, such as a deteriorating mental state, undue influence rarely happens quickly. On the contrary, undue influencers usually must work their way into an individual’s planning process. To do so, they often isolate the person. If your loved one stops corresponding with you, you may need to investigate whether he or she is under someone’s influence. 

3. Dominance 

Keeping an eye on your parent’s caregivers is a good idea for a variety of reasons. One of them, though, is to be sure your loved one does not fall victim to undue influence. If a relative, friend, health care professional or another person hijacks your parent’s wishes by taking charge of financial matters, you may have a problem. 

You want your aging loved one to retain some control over what happens to his or her assets. Encouraging your mother or father to create a comprehensive estate plan is only part of the equation, however. By watching for signs of possible undue influence, you can better protect your elderly relative.

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Thomas N. Torzewski, LLC

Torzewski & McInerney, LLC
60 Washington St
Suite 104
Morristown, NJ 07960

Phone: 973-532-2868
Fax: 973-359-0077
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