Do you know undue influence when you see it?
As lawyers we throw around the term “undue influence” and often assume that our clients understand what it means. But it’s really a difficult concept to understand and is subject to misconceptions. To that end, I wanted to take this post to shed some light on what is essentially a legal term of art.
“Undue influence” occurs when a person overwhelms another person into taking an act that the other person would not necessarily do otherwise. As noted in prior posts, undue influence is easier to exert by certain people, and on certain people. For example, people who manage or control another person’s money or finances are in a better position to exert undue influence over the finances of that other person. The same principle, though to a slightly lesser extent, applies to persons who are “caretakers” or “caregivers” of others. It is also somewhat obvious that the elderly and disabled are far more vulnerable to undue influence than others.
Knowing what undue influence is, how do you know when it’s being, or has been, perpetrated on a loved one? In my experience there are two telltale signs that stand out above anything else; sensing that either exists is a red flag that someone has been victimized by undue influence.
1. Denial of access to information. Quite often I receive e-mails or phone calls from people who have asked to see a parent’s will or trust, and have been stonewalled by the person who could most easily provide it to them. There is no reason for such persons to withhold disclosure of these documents, unless they have information they don’t want to disclose because it implicates them. If you ask for documents or information and are rebuffed, it is quite likely that the person who is “rebuffing” you has something to hide.
2. Denial of access to a loved one. Where families have splintered, children are often blocked by a controlling family member from contacting a loved one who has been under the person’s control. The person exercising control instinctively understands that if other family members have access to the loved one, they may try to get mom, dad or whoever the “controlled” family member may be, to understand that they are being victimized. As a means of avoiding that from occurring, the controlling family members shuts off contact with the loved one.
If you have questions regarding the validity of a will, contact Attorney Alan Fanger
Probate litigation can create major rifts in families. Attorney Alan Fanger aims to resolve Massachusetts will disputes quickly, emphatically and discreetly.
Attorney Alan Fanger is a Boston probate attorney concentrating in will contests and other probate matters. Alan serves the entire Greater Boston and Boston metro west region including Arlington, Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Canton, Concord, Dedham, Dover, Framingham, Lexington, Milton, Natick, Needham, Newton, Norwood, Quincy, Sherborn, Sudbury, Waltham, Wayland, Wellesley, and Weston, Massachusetts.