Undue Influence and Isolation of the Elderly
Undue influence is that influence asserted by a dominant party over a vulnerable one designed to substitute the dominant party’s will for the free will and choice of the vulnerable party.
Factual considerations in determining whether undue influence has been exerted include the mental capacity and condition of the vulnerable party; the physical limitations of that party which affect his or her ability to be independent; behavioral changes of the vulnerable party which diminish his or her relationships with close friends and family; isolation of the vulnerable party from close friends and family; the demeanor and actions of the dominant party; and the nature of the dominant and subservient parties’ relationship with each other.
Undue influence is often found where a vulnerable person is reliant upon the assistance of someone who is manipulative and seeking personal gain from the relationship. The victim is often elderly, mentally compromised, isolated, or physically or emotionally suffering, and convinced that the dominant person’s approval is necessary for his or her survival.
Elderly or ill nursing home residents and those who live at home alone are too often isolated and lonely, and seeking some kind of friendship or security. Unless close family and friends are frequent visitors, it is a risk that they may develop the type of relationship described here, with someone looking for a vulnerable person to prey upon. They are then at risk to be taken advantage of in numerous ways.
It is important that close family and friends keep strong ties with their elderly loved ones living in facilities or on their own at home to ensure that their best interests are being served.
They should be encouraged to engage in estate planning when they are competent to do so and in circumstances which ensure that they are exercising their own free will.