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California Law Attorney: For Love or Money: What To Do If You Suspect Undue Influence by a Caregiving Sibling


Last updated 7/13/2021 at 2:17pm

While questioning a sibling’s motivation in volunteering to care for a sick or aging parent may feel harsh, this is, unfortunately, justified in countless situations. We’ve seen far too many cases where people have discovered that their on-scene sibling has taken complete control of their parent’s money or disposed of it in such a way that it could not be recovered.

Ill or elderly people are sometimes taken advantage of by those close to them. They are manipulated to cut out close family members and to leave the entire estate to the so-called controlling “caretaker.” This is called “undue influence,” and if it’s proven in court, a will can be ruled invalid.

Now, if your parent dies with a will or living trust and you found out that it names the “caretaker’’ sibling as sole beneficiary, consider bringing an undue influence lawsuit against your “caretaker’’ sibling if you really feel suspicious. If you win, the judge will force the sibling to return the money he or she siphoned from your parent.

It’s important to note, however, that proving a “caretaker” sibling unduly influenced your parent can be extremely difficult. To make your case as strong as possible if you have to go to court, it’s wise to start preparing while your sequestered parent is still alive. Keep a record of all controlling or coercive acts exercised by your “caretaker’’ sibling. Ask other family members who are concerned about coercion to do the same.

Finally, we always encourage adult children never to give up hope of gaining control of the situation. If you’ve tried talking to your parent directly with no luck thus far, consider involving a third-party whom your parent trusts, such an old friend, a pastor, or professional advisor. It may also be wise to have your parent sit down with an elder law attorney as sometimes seniors are more likely to take advice from a lawyer who can clearly explain all the ways that the seniors’ financial situation is being exploited.

If you suspect undue influence has transpired in your parent’s estate, it may now be necessary to contest the will in probate court. Laws vary from state to state, so seek the guidance of an experienced attorney. Our California attorneys are here to guide you through any issues within our state. Simply call us at 800-244-8814 to set up a consultation.

– Robert Galliano, Attorney at Law, Copenbarger & Copenbarger, LLP