As parents get older, they can experience mental and physical conditions that make them vulnerable to unscrupulous parties looking for financial gain.
In too many cases, these parties are family members or caregivers who are in a position to take care of a parent, making it easier for them to cover up misdeeds. Thus, signs of coercion or duress may not become evident until after the parent passes away.
Uncovering coercion after a parent’s death
A will or other estate planning document can give loved ones a glimpse into their parent’s mental capacity that they did not see or have access to while the parent was alive. If these documents contain surprising or suspicious elements, it can be crucial to investigate whether a parent was under duress when they drafted or changed their estate plan.
Some signs that someone coerced, threatened or manipulated a person into altering their will include:
- Making rapid changes immediately before their death
- Disinheriting someone without explanation
- Using strange or uncharacteristic language
- Leaving gifts that do not align with their spiritual, cultural or religious beliefs
- Adding an unknown party to the list of beneficiaries
These details can be red flags that a parent was under duress or the influence of someone else at the time and that their final wishes are not their own.
Under these circumstances, contesting a will during probate can be wise.
Preventing this in the first place
While successfully contesting a will may set it aside, it can be a stressful, time-consuming process. It can be easier to prevent the situation from arising in the first place.
Those wishing to protect a parent from someone who may try to coerce or threaten them into changing their will can:
- Keep in frequent communication
- Alert clinic administrators or law enforcement agents if you suspect a parent is the victim of abuse or neglect
- Have a trusted party oversee a parent’s finances and report suspicious behaviour right away
- Explore options for assigning a statutory property guardian
It can also be crucial to talk to your parent about their estate plan. You don’t need to know exactly what your parent puts in their will, but you can connect them with a lawyer who can ensure the will is legally enforceable and drafted properly.
No one wants their parents to be taken advantage of. These steps can protect your parent and their legacy.