Undue influence occurs when someone manipulates a vulnerable or weakened individual to change their will for their own benefit. If you suspect that your loved one may be a victim of undue influence, it’s crucial to look for signs and approach the situation with care to protect their interests and avoid conflict.
Check for warning signs
To protect your vulnerable loved one from exploitation, it’s important to recognize the warning signs. Before confronting the accused or the victim, here are five questions to ask yourself to figure out if your loved one may be a victim of undue influence:
- Is the vulnerable person isolated from friends, family or a social support system?
- Is the vulnerable person dependent upon the abuser?
- Is the abuser using the victim’s financial assets for their own benefit?
- Is the vulnerable person experiencing psychological abuse, threats or intimidation?
- Has the vulnerable person experienced physical violence or threats of physical violence?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, further action can be necessary.
Undue influencers take advantage of their confidential relationship with the victim, manipulating them into changing their will for their own benefit. Instead of confronting the influencer directly, try approaching your loved one.
To “level” with the victim, consider having a family meeting to discuss the financial situation openly and in a supportive environment for your loved one. Shed light on what’s happening with their estate and address any changes that may have been made. Try to talk privately with your loved one. The goal is to protect your loved one’s best interest and that may not happen if the victim does not feel they can speak openly.
If this non-confrontational approach is unsuccessful or you do not get the information you need, more aggressive measures can be crucial to protect your loved one. Talking to an attorney, contacting Adult Protective Services or making a report with groups like the Elder Abuse Prevention Program can put a stop to any abuse occurring.
This is indeed a difficult situation and it’s important to approach it with empathy and understanding to minimize avoidable conflict among family members. If you cannot reach an agreement, seek further steps to protect the person you love.