What Does the Law Mean by “Undue Influence”?
Undue influence is often a key element in financial elder abuse cases. Caregivers may exert undue influence over vulnerable seniors to get the senior to add them to a Will, grant them a Power of Attorney, name them as beneficiary on bank accounts or life insurance, or make gifts to them. Insurance agents and financial advisors may exert undue influence to sell inappropriate life insurance or annuities to a senior. Financial exploitation by undue influence can be ruinous. The San Francisco and California elder abuse attorneys at Evans Law Firm, Inc. represent senior victims of financial elder abuse by undue influence or other tactics. If you or a loved one is a California senior who has been injured by financial elder abuse, call us today at (415)441-8669.
But what exactly is “undue influence”? California law defines it as “excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will and results in inequity.” Calif. Welf & Inst. Code § 15610.70(a). Courts consider several factors in determining whether a transaction was produced by undue influence:
- The senior’s vulnerability. Evidence of vulnerability includes incapacity, illness, disability, lack of education, emotional distress, cognitive impairment, isolation or dependency, and whether the influencer knew of the senior’s vulnerability. Calif. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.70(a)(1).
- The apparent authority of the influencer. Evidence of authority includes status as a fiduciary (including agent under a Power of Attorney), caregiver, healthcare professional, spiritual advisor, expert, and/or professional credentials as an insurance agent, broker, or financial advisor or other qualification. Calif. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.70(a)(2).
- The conduct of the influencer, including controlling the necessities of life, medication, and care; controlling the victim’s access to family and friends; controlling access to information and intercepting mail and phone calls; using affection, intimidation or coercion; initiating changes in financial affairs; insisting on quick decisions; suggesting purchases or financial changes at inappropriate times and place; and claiming expertise in effecting changes. Calif. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.70(a)(3)(A)-(C).
- The equity (or inequity) of the result: The Courts will consider the economic consequences to the victim, a divergence from prior intent and dispositions of property, the relationship between the value received versus the payment made by the victim, and the appropriateness of the transaction in light of the length and nature of the relationship between the victim and the influencer. Calif. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.70(a)(4). Note however that evidence of an inequitable result without more is not sufficient to prove undue influence. Calif. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.70(b).
Our litigators understand the factors consider in undue influence cases and know how to investigate these cases to gather evidence for trial. Our lawyers pursue all available remedies under California law which include getting the injured senior’s money back, undoing any harmful transaction, legal instrument or contract procured by undue influence, and the award of attorneys’ fees and costs to the injured party for bringing a successful action against the wrongdoer.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of financial elder abuse in San Francisco or elsewhere in California contact California financial elder abuse attorney Ingrid M. Evans and the other Evans Law Firm elder abuse attorneys at (415) 441-8669, or by email at <a href=”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com</a>. Our attorneys have experience with all types of physical and financial elder abuse, investment and securities fraud and annuity fraud, and nursing home abuse. We can guide your case through a jury trial, or toward an equitable settlement. We also handle qui tam and whistleblower lawsuits, whole life insurance and universal life insurance cases, and cases involving indexed, variable, and fixed annuities.