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Elder Abuse, Financial Loss, and Undue Influence: FAQs

Dr. Bennett Blum is an internationally recognized expert on the evaluation of undue influence and manipulation tactics, especially those used in financial exploitation of the elderly.  A sought-after expert witness and litigation consultant, Dr. Blum works on complex and high-profile cases across the US, Canada, and Europe.  Attorneys and individuals involved in related civil or criminal litigation often depend on his insights to maximize investigation and litigation effectiveness. 
  
Q: What is "undue influence?"
A:  "Undue Influence" is a legal term that refers to excessive or inappropriate manipulation in which a person, or institution, takes advantage of someone weaker.  It is sometimes described as a deceptive means to control another person's decision-making.
       
Q: How does “undue influence” typically manifest itself?
A: Usually we see a situation where a person in a position of responsibility and trust, such as a "new best friend," lover, or confidant, misuses their position to benefit themselves to the detriment of the victim or the victim’s estate. Sometimes, the offender may be a professional such as an attorney, accountant, stockbroker, physician, or nurse.
 
Q: What are the warning signs of undue influence?
A: After establishing some type of relationship, the perpetrator finds out who the victim confides in, and who visits, writes or calls the victim. Then the isolation process begins. Offenders try to create situations that keep the intended victim away from confidants and advisors.  Sometimes they intercept phone calls and mail, stop people from visiting, or take the victim on an unexpected trip.  The purpose is always to get the victim away from their normal environment, friends, and family. If the intended victim is already isolated, the offender will take advantage without having to create new situations.  Of course, this is much easier if the victim is also physically or mentally impaired. 
 
Q:  What happens next?
A:  The offender uses emotional manipulation or takes advantage of some pre-existing weakness to get the victim to do what the perpetrator desires.
 
Q: Who are the most likely victims?A:  The most obvious are people who are lonely, depressed, or anxious; those who want to please others; and those who have some type of physical or mental impairment. Less obvious are people who are overly stubborn, arrogant, or biased.  Criminal predators also know that these people are also often easy to manipulate.  
 
Q:  What about people in second- or third-marriages?
A:  Elderly who are part of blended families are at risk because there can be a great deal of animosity among family members. These cases often come to our attention after an elderly person has died and a will or trust is being contested.
 
Q: What can people do to protect themselves or loved ones?
A: Combat the isolation. Get more involved in the person’s life and care, and get others more involved.  Consider contacting Adult Protective Services or law enforcement.  If litigation is being considered, have your attorney hire someone specifically trained in elder abuse, undue influence and mental capacity to evaluate the situation. Don't rely on a general physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist.  Also, for  legal, technical, and ethical reasons, these evaluators should only be hired through attorneys.
 

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