There is an alarming pandemic of loneliness among older Americans. In fact, according to reporting from Consumer Affairs, 60% of men and 71% of women over the age of 65 claim to be lonelier now than they were just a few years ago.
Loneliness can have deadly consequences, as it can increase a person’s risk of developing dementia, having a stroke and experiencing other declines in health. In the estate planning context, though, loneliness also can make an older person more vulnerable to undue influence.
When individuals engage in estate planning, they are free to take virtually any action they want. Still, for their estate plans to be valid, they must be free from undue influence.
Undue influence happens when a person supplants his or her interests over those of the estate planner. As you might suspect, undue influence can be extremely detrimental, as it might cause an estate planner to make decisions he or she otherwise would not make.
Isolation and loneliness
Lonely seniors might be too quick to trust new friends and acquaintances. They also might assign more value to social interactions than they should. Each of these facts can put a lonely person more at risk of undue influence.
The probate process
If you believe an older relative might have fallen victim to undue influence, you might have little choice but to contest his or her estate plan during the probate process. Contesting an estate plan means you challenge its validity. Undue influence is a common reason for individuals to contest estate plans.
Ultimately, shining some light on your loved one’s undue influencer might be the most effective way both to preserve your rightful inheritance and to protect your relative’s legacy.