Problems When Professionals Exert Too Much Influence On Estate Plans
Most of us rely on professionals in many aspects of our lives. Whether they are lawyers, accountants, financial professionals, business advisors, bankers, or any other number of professionals, we trust that these individuals have our best interests at heart. It can be hard for us to spot when we are being taken advantage of—such as when the professional is acting in his or her best interests, instead of ours.
Harder for the Elderly and Ill
If you think that you can be deceived, imagine how difficult it must be for someone who may be elderly or sick, to recognize when someone is taking advantage of them. That’s why coercion or undue influence are such important parts of will challenges.
This advice isn’t just relevant for beneficiaries looking to challenge a will. It is also advice for you, if you are creating an estate plan, and relying upon the advice of a professional. Be prepared that someone may try to say that you were unduly influenced by a professional, if they don’t like what you left or didn’t leave to them in your estate documents.
Uncovering Undue Influence or Coercion
One thing to ask, is whether someone who is a professional, and who is assisting you in writing, planning, editing or amendment a document in your estate plan, is getting something out of the document they are drafting or editing. This could set up your estate plan for an attack on its validity when you are gone.
Let’s look at an example: Greta wants to amend her estate plan. Her realtor tells her that the best thing to do, is to leave property that Greta owns, to her (the realtor) to manage, given that the realtor has expertise in the area of real estate and maximizing real estate profit. Perhaps Greta and the realtor have even had an ongoing business relationship for many years. The realtor’s advice has generally been good, and Greta trusts the realtor. The realtor helps Greta alter her will, to ensure that the property goes to the realtor upon Greta’s passing.
It’s uncertain whether the realtor was taking advantage of Greta, but one thing is for certain: It looks like there may have been undue influence, and family members, upset that the realtor is getting property that they are not, and concerned over the influence the realtor may have exerted over Greta, will challenge that estate plan.
It can be difficult to demonstrate undue influence or coercion in these situations, unless the elderly person was clearly infirm at the time the estate documents were created or amended (for example, if Greta in our example had Alzheimer’s at the time the will was altered).
To avoid problems, the best option is not to trust outside professionals other than attorneys, when it comes to creating or amending estate documents.
Call the Torrance will attorneys at Samuel Ford Law today to make sure that your estate plan, and your will, are created correctly.