Individuals seeking to exert undue influence over Florida elders are the most common reason that last wills and testaments are challenged. The law states that any part of a will that is unduly influenced by a person other than the decedent becomes invalid.
Undue influence defined
Elder law experts define undue influence as a level of persuasion that proves capable of overriding another person’s free will. This persuasion will cause a person to act against his or her best interests in many instances. Elders are particularly vulnerable to undue influence when a family member or caretaker exerts a measurable degree of authority over them. Influencers commonly establish dominance by controlling food, medicine and other necessities. Influencers may also turn to emotional controls, like affection and intimidation, to achieve their objectives.
Recognition and prevention
Elders under the control of a manipulator will likely not understand what is happening to them. In many cases, elders will try to protect the influencer from the judgment of others. It may be possible to protect the elderly from undue influence when drafting a will by educating them regarding the behavior. It may also help to train estate planners on issues related to undue influence.
The Commission on Law and Aging suggests that legal professionals who provide estate planning services screen older adults for the possible presence of undue influence. These professionals will need an understanding of the signs and risk factors to complete this screening effectively. Estate planning professionals who discover undue influence should take this into account when delivering advice to the client.
Legal remedies for undue influence may include increased oversight for power of attorney, revisions to existing documents, protection orders and other measures to help elders feel secure enough to exercise their free will.
The estate planning process is important for individuals who are concerned with making sure their loved ones are taken care of when they can no longer be together. An attorney familiar with estate planning may prove beneficial to the process.