What is Undue Influence

A trust is an excellent way for people to provide for their loved ones after they are gone. A person establishing a trust is often called a "trustor" and usually has his or her close family and friends in mind when the trust is drafted. The trust will identify the trust assets and specify on how the assets will be distributed after the trustor dies.

Unfortunately, a trustor can be subject to the unwanted influence of close family or friends and can alter the terms of their trust at their family or friend’s request. This is commonly known as "undue influence". Undue influence occurs when the family or friend convinces the trustor to change his or her testamentary intentions for that family member or friend’s benefit. As a result of this undue influence, the trust instrument may not reflect the trustor’s original intentions.

Typically, a trustor who has diminished mental capacity due to dementia or other illness is more susceptible to undue influence of friends or family members. Then friends or family members will take advantage of the trustor’s mental state to increase their financial share of the trust.

So, what can be done about this? If you are a beneficiary of a trust and you believe you are facing one of the foregoing situations, it is important for you to assess your options soon. In some circumstances, after a trustor has died, and the trust is in the beginning administration period, a beneficiary may only have 120 days to contest the trust. Four months passes quickly, particularly in emotional and stressful seasons of life. Even if you believe more than 120 days have passed, our attorneys may be able to help you.

If you are a trustee and have a beneficiary challenging the trust, please give us a call. Depending on your circumstances, it may not be too late to correct the problem or resolve the conflict.

When there is no simple solution, contesting a trust may be the only option for beneficiaries. For trustees, it is important to know your rights and responsibilities when managing a trust estate for beneficiaries.

If the trust is the result of undue influence, our attorneys may choose to file other claims in addition to the trust contest. Such claims may include financial elder abuse, fraud, breach of trust, or a variety of other claims. Some claims, if successful, may include an award of attorney’s fees and/or punitive damages, and can result in the suspect documents being voided in addition to the undue influence being inherited.

The Walker Law Firm has had years of experience evaluating people’s situations and providing effective solutions. Our attorneys care for their clients and want to help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us.