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How to avoid undue influence when helping parents with a will

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2018 | Estate Litigation

Many times, heirs feel as if they should have gotten more from their parents’ or relatives’ will, or they feel like a sibling got too much. If you think one of your siblings or relatives might make this complaint against you, it is important to take preventative steps to stave off claims of undue influence especially if you are helping your parents with their will.

Here is a look at a few things you can do.

Use an attorney

Perhaps the most important thing is to stop being directly involved in the will-writing process. For instance, do not use fill-in-the-blank forms, especially not those that are in your handwriting. Instead, find an attorney for your parents, and stay out the process as much as possible. Of course, it may be unavoidable that your parents need your help to find an attorney or need a ride to meetings. However, do not go into meetings with your parents. They need independent legal advice for a claim of undue influence to get tossed out of court.

Be clear in other dealings concerning your parents

Your other dealings matter too. For example, do not restrict interactions between your parents and other relatives. If they want nephew Bart to stop visiting, it is better if they tell him so themselves rather than having you do it. You may even want to keep a record of who visits and when to show that you allowed free access to your parents.

Speaking of keeping a record, you should do so for gifts, including cash gifts. Say that your father wants to thank you for moving in to help him and gives you your late mother’s engagement ring. So that your siblings cannot make a claim on it later or accuse you of stealing, have him sign a document attesting that this was a gift he made. Even better is if an attorney gets involved in that process.

Also avoid using cash. Instead, using checks or debit cards is a good way to show why and how you are spending hundreds or thousands of dollars a month of your parents’ money for their groceries, doctor appointments and the like. Cash may be unavoidable in some situations, so keep receipts for everything.