Undue influence occurs when someone tries to manipulate an elderly person for financial gain. It often focuses on their estate. For instance, someone could emotionally manipulate an elderly person and convince that person to leave them the lion's share of the estate in their will, cutting out other heirs. Such people often target elderly individuals who are suffering from dementia and other issues that make it hard for them to grasp what is going on.
Over the past few years, there has been an uptick in the number of individuals attempting to befriend elderly persons in order to extort money from them. This has led California lawmakers to draft a number of bills aimed at protecting this vulnerable population, and more specifically, those who have a conservator who manages their finances. At least four of those have since been signed into law.
When you sign your will, it's best to do so in the presence of witnesses. Some jurisdictions may even require this. If yours does, then there may be certain criteria for choosing your witnesses. All of these requirements exist to ensure that the testator, or person drafting the will, has testamentary capacity, or knows what they're signing and that no one has undue influence over them.
Some people are more likely to be swayed by undue influence than others. While these cases almost always target someone who is already fragile due to age or sickness, for instance, that does not mean all targets are equal.
A study published in 2015 by True Link Financial suggested that the elderly lose as much as $36.48 billion annually in financial exploitation schemes. As many as two million Americans may be manipulated into giving others access to their assets each year.