For many different reasons, isolation has become a significant problem for senior citizens in the U.S. recently. In fact, according to reporting from Consumer Affairs, 43% of Americans over the age of 60 claim to be lonely.
Not only is this number sad, but it also presents a critical problem for estate planning. Specifically, lonely or isolated seniors might be increasingly vulnerable to undue influence.
What is undue influence?
In the estate planning context, undue influence happens when someone takes advantage of a person. Often, undue influencers end up with priority over children and other heirs. That is, they supplant their interests over those of the estate planner and his or her relatives.
Why is undue influence bad?
Undue influence can cause children and other heirs to lose their inheritance. It also can cause estate planners to make financial and other decisions they would not otherwise make. Consequently, it is not difficult to see why undue influence is a legally valid and common reason to contest a will.
How does loneliness contribute to undue influence?
When a person suffers from loneliness and isolation, he or she may be less wary of undue influencers. That is, a lonely senior may mistakenly believe an undue influencer is a friend or even a romantic partner. This can cause the isolated person to defer to the undue influencer when making planning decisions or distributing assets.
Even though loneliness can make a person more vulnerable to undue influence, you can combat undue influence by maintaining close contact with your senior citizen loved ones. Ultimately, though, you eventually may have to contest the estate plan to protect your loved one’s legacy and your interests.