People, especially the elderly, are often vulnerable to undue influence when creating a will or trust or making other estate planning decisions. When a court determines that undue influence was a factor in the terms of a document, the claim may be filed.
The legal definition of undue influence is “improper influence that deprives a person of freedom of choice or substitutes another’s choice or desire for the person’s own.” Undue influence is more than just making suggestions. An undue influence claim must show that:
- The victim had some type of mental or other impairment that caused them to be susceptible to undue influence. Undue influence is sometimes thought of as a form of elder abuse, but people with disabilities or who are dependent on others may also be susceptible to suggestions from caregivers, family and others.
- The person exhibiting undue influence must have the opportunity to exert the influence. To prove undue influence, you must prove that the person had a special relationship with the victim. Courts have found that there are opportunities for undue influence in the confidential relationships between spouses, siblings, parents and children, guardians and wards, doctors and patients, clergy and congregations, attorneys and clients, etc.
- The person must have exhibited an inclination to exert undue influence. The person exerting undue influence may find a way to isolate the victim from other people and/or discourage the victim from seeking other advice. For example, a caregiver may badger a victim into signing a document.
- There was a transaction that would not have been occurred if there was no undue influence. Courts are suspicious of unusual changes to a will or trust that were requested by someone who would clearly benefit substantially from the change. This is especially true if the change results in an unnatural distribution (e.g. substantials gifts to someone other than a family member when the decedent had a close relationship with their family).
A recent article discussed how difficult it is to define and identify undue influence. While you may suspect undue influence, it’s very difficult to prove the difference between advice and undue influence. You must be able to prove that the relationship was a factor that made the victim vulnerable to suggestions that were not in the victim’s best interest.
Getting Help with a Nevada Undue Influence Claim
As experienced estate and trust attorneys, the team at RLK has helped many Nevada clients with undue influence claims—both clients charged with undue influence and clients filing undue influence claims. It’s an issue we know very well. Within our legal niche, RLK ranks among the top firms in Las Vegas.If you have questions about undue influence claims, call us at (702) 255-4552 or contact us online.