Few decisions in life require more thought than choosing to place an aging parent in a nursing home. Still, for a variety of reasons, long-term care may be right for your mother or father. If your parent develops a close relationship with someone at the facility, though, that person may try to interfere with your loved one’s estate plan.
One way to contest an estate plan is to assert that someone exercised undue influence over the person who created it. To prove undue influence, you typically must show that your loved one was subject to threats, flattery, misrepresentations, fraud or similar conduct that interfered with his or her free will. Here are three common ways to uncover undue influence in an estate plan:
1. Watch for isolation
Isolated individuals may be more prone to undue influence. That is, the person trying to control your parent may make it difficult for your loved one to keep in touch with you, other family members, friends or spiritual advisors. Unfortunately, those living in nursing homes are often increasingly vulnerable to isolation.
2. Be wary of special relationships
In a nursing home, your parent may develop special relationships with other residents, caregivers, family members or others. While there are many benefits to forming meaningful relationships in the final years of life, an unscrupulous individual may take advantage of your parent. If he or she quickly becomes an estate plan beneficiary, undue influence may have played a role.
3. Check mental state
Even if your parent was financially savvy for most of his or her life, the effects of aging may take a toll on your mom’s or dad’s mental health. As such, if there are strange changes to the estate plan, you may need to evaluate your loved one’s mental state. If he or she has Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression or is otherwise frail, you may need to investigate undue influence.
Your parent has the right to distribute assets as he or she sees fit. Still, no one should exercise undue influence over your loved one’s estate plan. If you notice the warning signs of undue influence, you may need to act quickly to protect your parent’s rights.