Is helping a parent with estate planning “undue influence?”

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2022 | Estate Planning

You finally talked your widowed father into putting his estate plan in place. You know that you’re going to have to give him some help or he’ll never get around to doing it. The problem is that you’ve got siblings on the other side of the country who will be expecting an inheritance from him.

You have no intention of influencing his decisions about how much to leave anyone. However, you know he plans to leave you more than your siblings because you’ve helped him considerably in recent years. It’s prudent to be concerned about how much assistance you can provide in his estate planning without being accused of “undue influence” and having the estate plan contested in a Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (TEDRA) action.

Make sure there are no questions of competence

First, we’re assuming here that the person preparing their estate plan has the cognitive and mental abilities to do so. It may help to have their physician write a letter attesting to the fact that they’re competent to make their own decisions.

It’s crucial for them to have independent communication with their legal representative and any financial and tax professionals. As a beneficiary, you shouldn’t be part of those conversations – at least initially. It’s important for them to see that your parent is the one making the decisions.

It’s best if you don’t choose these professionals – especially if you know them. If your parent isn’t good at scheduling appointments or doesn’t drive, see if a trusted friend or neighbor can accompany them or if they can meet in their home. 

Explaining inequities in inheritances

If your parent is leaving you more assets than your siblings, it’s wise for them to include a letter with the estate plan explaining their decision. They could note that it’s for the time and effort you spent caring for them. Perhaps your siblings have needed more help financially over the years than you have. It’s even better if your parent can also have these conversations in person.

Finally, if your parent really doesn’t want to create an estate plan or even a will, let it go. The more you push, the more likely you are to be accused of undue influence. Maybe others in your family or your parent’s circle of friends could convince them that it’s a final gift they can give their loved ones.