Undue Influence is when someone pressures another in such a way that the person being influenced is not acting by their own free will; they are being coerced into taking a certain action. The person being influenced does not understand the repercussions of their actions.
Recognizing undue influence is a job for many – lawyers, financial advisors, notaries, bankers, and family members. Due to the nature of undue influence, it is often carried out by loved ones and kept hidden from others. Undue influence often happens in the case of illness, where there is a deterioration in physical and mental abilities. The bad actor will take advantage of the ill person, unduly influencing them into taking actions to benefit the bad actor.
The issue of undue influence was litigated in Malousek v. Meyer. Here, we have Molly and Greg, who began cohabitating in 2009. In 2015, Molly was diagnosed with cancer and began treatments. By 2017, her health had drastically deteriorated. In mid-October 2017, the pair added Greg as a joint owner on Molly’s bank accounts, changed beneficiary designations in Greg’s favor, got married, and executed a quitclaim deed in order to have the home transfer to Greg upon Molly’s death. In addition, Molly executed a power of attorney naming Greg’s son, Mark, as agent.