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Torrance Estate Planning & Probate > Blog > Wills > Avoiding Challenges Of Undue Influence When Making Your Estate Plan

Avoiding Challenges Of Undue Influence When Making Your Estate Plan


When our parents or other loved ones get older, they start to need our help more and more. And one thing that you may want to help elderly relatives with, is creating an estate plan. The advice and push to have older relatives create an estate plan, is a smart idea.

But what many family members unknowingly do when helping their elderly relatives with an estate plan, is exert pressure or influence in the decisions that will be made in that estate plan—even if they don’t mean to do so, and even if the pressure is in the elderly relative’s best interest.

Challenges Can Happen

The problem comes later, if a beneficiary (like another family member) ends up getting left out of the estate plan documents. If that happens, there is a good chance that those left out beneficiaries will end up blaming you.

So how can you both encourage elderly relatives to create an estate plan? And also avoid the appearance of undue influence?

Independence With the Attorney

The first step is, when you do get an estate plan attorney (as you should) to allow your older relative to speak or meet with the attorney without you present. What your relative tells you after the appointment is up to them. But you want to create the appearance of as much independence as possible.

Later, in subsequent meetings, if your elderly relatives do want to include you in the meetings with the attorney, that’s fine—but there should at least be an initial meeting between your relatives, the attorney, and nobody else.

A Letter of Intent

Another thing to consider, and which your estate attorney may suggest, is a letter explaining why your elderly relatives are doing what they’re doing in their estate plan—especially if you know that some people or relatives will be left out of the estate plan. This can show that there was a logical, thought out reason for any omission in the estate plan, and that the omission is not a result of undue influence.

Going to the Doctor

You may also want to schedule a medical appointment with a physician for your elderly loved ones, at or around the time you make the estate plan. These medical records can document the level of competency and cognition that your elderly loved ones had at the time of making the estate plan. If they do have any kind of diagnosis—like early stage dementia or similar ailment—that should be made known to the estate attorney.

Neutral Witnesses

If you do have loved ones or trusted friends, who stand nothing to gain or lose from the estate plan, you may want to include them in discussions as well. They can serve as neutral witnesses to the decision making process, in the event that there is a challenge to the estate plan later on.

Call the Torrance will and estate attorneys at Samuel Ford Law today to help you help those you love, create an estate plan that works for everyone.




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