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What are the characteristics of undue influence?

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2020 | Trust And Probate Administration

According to Psychology Today, undue influence occurs when an uneven relationship dynamic exists that places an elderly individual at an increased risk for manipulation to the point where he or she acts against his or her own best interests. Undue influence is a growing problem in America and is the driver behind fraud and the financial exploitation of elderly persons. Despite popular belief, an older person does not have to live with dementia to fall victim to undue influence. So, how do you spot undue influence of a loved one who’s mental capacity is “intact.” 

Though judges may use their discretion when determining the existence of undue influence, most look for four main criteria. The first is the vulnerability of the victim. Vulnerabilities may include psychological and medical conditions. 

The second is the relationship between the victim and the influencer. For undue influence to occur, the influencer must be in a position of trust or power. The relationship between the victim and influencer may be formal, such as that between an accountant and client, or informal, such as that between a child and mother. 

The third criterion is the methods through which the influencer manipulates the victim. Influencers often go to drastic measures to take advantage of an elderly person. For instance, a child may attempt to isolate an older parent from the rest of the family. An accountant may initiate or actively procure legal documents. A caretaker may request a change of the will on the same day the testator comes home from the hospital. 

The fourth and final criterion is the loss of money. Undue influence results in the financial loss for the victim and his or her loved ones, and financial gain for the influencer.