Your parent, nearing the end of his or her life, suddenly has a new love interest. The person is far younger than your parent, and you feel skeptical. That is confirmed when you meet the person and spend time with the two of them together. It seems clear to you that the younger person just found out about your parent’s net worth and is attempting to work his or her way into the will.
Or, perhaps one of your siblings moves closer to home as your parents get older, after having been away for decades. Their relationship seems to flourish. You feel happy about it at first, but then you overhear some conversations about their estate plan when you go home to visit. It seems like the sibling who moved back is working on getting a larger share than you.
Both of these are potential issues of undue influence. This is when someone tries to manipulate an older person into giving up some of one’s wealth, often with changes to the estate plan. It frequently happens with people in a position of power, such as caretakers, but it also happens with siblings, romantic partners and the like. Their goal is financial, and they try to connect with a vulnerable elderly person for their own gain.
A lack of belief
One problem with this situation is that you may be able to see it from the outside, but the elderly often have no idea what is happening. They think the relationship is genuine.
Even if you tell them about it, they may not believe you. They get blinded by the manipulation and trust. For instance, your parent may not believe that the new lover is not interested in a romantic relationship, but just wants a piece of the family wealth. He or she may not believe that your sibling has an ulterior motive, but may see the increased bequest in the estate plan as a viable way to pay him or her back for time spent caring for the parent at the end of his or her life.
What options do you have?
You should try to get more involved. Get closer to your parents so that you can learn more about what is going on. If possible, try to get access to banking records and financial paperwork to see what changes already took place.
Also, even if you think you’ll offend someone, speak up. Do not keep your worries to yourself. Be open and honest, explaining the situation and what you see. Parents may resist it at first and come around in the end.
Above all else, if you think that the estate plan has been unfairly manipulated, make sure you understand all of your legal options.