Protecting Loved Ones from Undue Influence:  Elder Law Tips

By: Benjamin A. Baroody

The retirement-aged population carries with it far more wealth than their children and grandchildren’s generations. As this population increases along the South Carolina and North Carolina coasts, families must be cognizant of the potential pitfalls of poor estate planning or, worse yet, no estate plan. The recession experienced over the course of the last five years has only increased the financial pressure placed upon young and middle-aged families and, with that, increased the temptation to take advantage of a loved one for personal financial gain.

Three typical situations include:

1) An adult child moves in with an aging mother to care for her full-time. Mother gives adult child power of attorney to make a number of decisions on her behalf. Child uses the power of attorney to pay her personal expenses without mother’s knowledge or consent.

2) Same facts, but mother later changes her will to bequeath the bulk of her estate to the adult child, leaving her other children with plenty of acrimony and suspicion.

3) A home health nurse suddenly becomes the confidant and best friend of an aging father, who begins paying the nurse’s rent, her childcare expenses, and gives her his car.

Of course, there are a number of other scenarios and spin-offs of the foregoing examples, but most center around two key elements:

1) the diminishing capacity of the loved one, and

2) greed and the will of a family member.

Family members should spot and deal with these issues immediately, before they become a problem- before the power of attorney is signed, before the bank account is raided, before the will is changed, before the trust is made. Family dynamics are terribly difficult, with years of sympathy, empathy, sibling rivalry, love, and affection. These dynamics typically cause family members to overlook these issues or delay dealing with them.

Three of our attorneys- Eddie BowersMarty Dawsey, and Phillip Albergotti– handle estate planning, and are available to help families plan around such problems. However, if the problem already exists, three of our attorneys- David MillerBen Baroody, and George Redman– handle estate problems, disputes, and litigation in the Probate Court, and are available to meet with families to give them the right advice on how to solve such problems.