Estate planning is an important process for older adults since it ensures that people distribute assets according to their wishes after they pass away. However, this process can be fraught with risks, and one of the most significant concerns is the potential for undue influence.
This issue, which happens when someone manipulates an older adult into changing their will or estate plan, is seriously harmful.
Vulnerability due to age
As individuals age, they may become more vulnerable to manipulation and coercion. Cognitive decline is a common age-related issue, affecting decision-making abilities. This decline can make it easier for others to exert undue influence over the older adult.
Isolation and dependence
Social isolation is another factor. Older adults who face isolation from friends and family members may become increasingly reliant on a small circle of individuals. If one of these individuals attempts to exert control over the estate planning process, the older adult may have limited outside perspectives to counteract it.
Around 15% to 20% of people 65 years or older have mild cognitive impairment from any cause. Physical and mental health issues, including forgetfulness and confusion, can exacerbate an older adult’s susceptibility to undue influence. These health challenges can make them more dependent on others for care and support, creating an opportunity for manipulation.
Older adults who are financially dependent on others may be at higher risk. If an individual controls access to funds or resources, they may use this control to pressure the older adult into making decisions that benefit them rather than the older adult’s true intentions.
Fear of consequences
Undue influence can thrive in an atmosphere of fear or intimidation. Older adults may fear the repercussions of resisting the influencer, leading them to comply with decisions that they do not genuinely support.
Trust in close relationships
Trust is a fundamental aspect of many close relationships, including those between older adults and their family members or friends. Unfortunately, others can exploit their trust, with the older adult making decisions based on trust rather than their own desires.
Lack of knowledge
Estate planning can be a complex process, and older adults may not fully understand the implications of their decisions. This lack of knowledge can make them more susceptible to following the guidance of someone they trust, even if it is not in their best interest.
It is important to create an environment where older adults can make informed decisions that truly reflect their desires and best interests. Respectfully discussing the topic of undue influence with elderly loved ones may help with this problem.