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When Shirley tried to take it all: Undue influence

Your favorite Uncle Art lived to the ripe old age of 91. He'd been a bit of a miser and really accrued a great deal of assets. Maybe because he never married he had the time to spend with you. He really seemed interested in your life and your plans.

Quite frankly, you were his favorite, too. You loved those summers at his cabin. You drove the boat, built bonfires for s'mores and helped maintain the place. The older you got them more care you took.  In fact, Art saw your love for the place and told you that while he was leaving the house and his savings to your mother, the cabin would be all yours.  

Who is Shirley? 

It started when Art's health declined. Unable to get around, Art said he wanted to age at home. Then Art fell and broke his hip. Luckily, there was a care provider who came to the house those last three months, Shirley.  She spent more and more time there and even made sure the bills got paid. She seemed to take control and often told family members that Art was not well enough for visits or to talk on the phone. 

And then you get the call from Shirley. She cries on the phone, tells you how much she is going to miss "her Arty." You thank her for taking such good care of Art and take steps to get Art buried and his estate settled. But when it comes time to review the will, something is not right. The will has been amended to leave everything, including the cabin, to Shirley.

Undue influence: what it is 

 

Undue influence happens when someone close to the person who dies has unreasonable control over that person's decisions, especially when it comes to money or things of value.  

Of course family members and those who care for an elderly or sick person often do have some influence over their decisions and affairs. However it is called  "undue" influence  if that person overpowers the sick or elderly person and forces or coerces them to do things they would not have ordinarily done.  

Steps to take when the will is not right

In this story Shirley is not only an interloper, but a predator. Her few weeks caring for Art do not justify him leaving all of his earthly possessions to her. Knowing Art, you know he would not make that choice unless he were being manipulated or not of sound mind. In a case such as this your best recourse is to speak with an established attorney who handles estate planning, probate and will contests. 

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