Can you unduly influence someone NOT to take an action? In nearly all Trust and Will disputes, an undue influence claim is brought to overturn a Trust or Will that was executed while the elder was unduly influenced. But not every Trust and Will case turns on action, sometimes inaction can be just as damaging.
For example, sometimes parents get mad at their children (sometimes you ask? Okay it happens all the time). And to punish the child, a parent will rush to the lawyer’s office and amend the Trust or Will to reduce that child’s share or disinherit them altogether.
A few years go by, the parent and child make amends, and the parent wants to change the Trust and Will again to return the child to his full share of the estate. But then, another child gets wind of this intent and tries to prevent it. Maybe the other children had no problem with this one “trouble maker” getting booted out of the estate and thereby increasing everyone else’s share.
Undue influence is the use of severe pressure that causes the elder to replace his or her own intent with that of the wrongdoer. Influence (of the undue variety) is not illegal. Everyone is influenced every day by the people around them. But undue influence is more sinister in that is supplants the intent of the elder completely.
Undue influence can be used to cause a person to act, or refrain from acting, in a way that overcomes the person’s free will. (See Welfare and Institutions Code section 15610.70).
As a result, where a parent is kept from changing a Trust to add a disinherited child back into the estate, undue influence could be used to overcome the resulting distribution.
It is not just what a parent does, but what a parent does not do, that could form the basis of a Trust or Will lawsuit.