Elizabeth O’Brien, Retirement Reporter for Marketwatch.com, calls them “Tiger Children.” They are individuals with aging parents who try to micromanage their aging parents in making important decisions such as elder care and estate planning. As a lawyer with a practice focused on estate planning, “Tiger Children” remind me of an all too common estate planning issue: undue influence. Undue influence is defined as influence by which a person is induced to act otherwise than by their own free will or without adequate attention to the consequences.
According to Cornell University Law School, in order prove undue influence, a party must show that one party to a transaction or contract is a person with weaknesses which make him likely to be affected by such persuasion, and that the party exercising the persuasion is someone in a special relationship with the victim that makes the victim especially susceptible to such persuasion. For example, Albert is a 95 year old widower with dementia. His primary caretaker is his much younger girlfriend, Barbara. Everyday Barbara presses her aging boyfriend to write a will leaving his entire estate to her and to disinherit his children, Charles and Danielle. When Albert shows resistance, Barbara threatens to cease taking care of Albert. Feeling vulnerable and pressured by Barbara’s demands, Albert gives in to Barbara’s wishes and decides to write a will leaving his entire estate to Barbara and disinherits Charles and Danielle. At Albert’s death, Barbara tries to have Albert’s will probated. Charles and Danielle, however, may be able to challenge the will as invalid due to undue influence on Albert by Barbara.
Click here to check out Elizabeth O’Brien’s article, “Don’t be the ‘Tiger Child’ at your family gathering,” to learn how you can avoid the mistake of micromanaging and pressuring your aging parents.