Is This Undue Influence – It Could Be – You Decide

I was reading an article recently. It in part described a situation where one of Dad’s adult children said that Dad could not see his granddaughter anymore because the son was upset with Dad’s estate plan, but that Dad could see his granddaughter if he made some changes to the plan.

Undue influence is described in several different ways, including by statute and by case law. When are statements or discussions merely opinions, or influence, or persuasion, or even argument or disagreement, but not “undue” influence in nature? It’s not always easy to tell; but on other occasions it is obvious. You judge the above scenario using the below definition of undue influence. It sounds like undue influence, and quite possibly also elder abuse, if it meets the below criteria.

The following information is copied from my elder abuse presentation slides.

California Welfare & Institutions Code §15610.70 provides the following statutory definition of undue influence:

(a) “Undue influence” means excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will and results in inequity. In determining whether a result was produced by undue influence, all of the following shall be considered:

(1) The vulnerability of the victim. Evidence of vulnerability may include, but is not limited to, incapacity, illness, disability, injury, age, education, impaired cognitive function, emotional distress, isolation, or dependency, and whether the influencer knew or should have known of the alleged victim’s vulnerability.

(2) The influencer’s apparent authority. Evidence of apparent authority may include, but is not limited to, status as a fiduciary, family member, care provider, health care professional, legal professional, spiritual adviser, expert, or other qualification.

(3) The actions or tactics used by the influencer. Evidence of actions or tactics used may include, but is not limited to, all of the following: (A) Controlling necessaries of life, medication, the victim’s interactions with others, access to information, or sleep. (B) Use of affection, intimidation, or coercion. (C) Initiation of changes in personal or property rights, use of haste or secrecy in effecting those changes, effecting changes at inappropriate times and places, and claims of expertise in effecting changes.

(4) The equity of the result. Evidence of the equity of the result may include, but is not limited to, the economic consequences to the victim, any divergence from the victim’s prior intent or course of conduct or dealing, the relationship of the value conveyed to the value of any services or consideration received, or the appropriateness of the change in light of the length and nature of the relationship.

(b) Evidence of an inequitable result, without more, is not sufficient to prove undue influence.