Estate planning fraud has become an increasingly common problem in recent decades, especially for the elderly. Fortunately, fraud can be detected at an early stage through careful planning and taking precautions, so if you are concerned that an elderly relative is being taken advantage of, it is vital to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney who can ensure that his or her interests are protected.

Fraudulent Acts


Elderly individuals are especially vulnerable to being tricked into transferring assets, changing bank accounts, or altering wills or the terms of a trust based on false statements made by others. These types of fraudulent acts can also be achieved through the exercise of undue influence. Fortunately, when an individual relies on a false representation, the document can be invalidated by interested parties.

Undue Influence

In their waning years, many seniors come to rely on others completely for medical care and financial aid. This leaves them vulnerable to fraud, which may result in his or her wishes being ignored or overruled. In these cases, family members can argue that a relative was unduly influenced, and as a result, changed the provisions of his or her will even though the alterations did not conform to the testator’s true intentions.

To prove that an individual was unduly influenced, the party contesting the will does not have to establish that a beneficiary inspired fear in the testator. Instead, he or she can use evidence that kindness and affection were used to destroy the testator’s free agency.

Courts will often presume that undue influence was exercised when the testator and the beneficiary had a fiduciary relationship. To establish this presumption, the fraudulently excluded party must demonstrate that:

  • A fiduciary relationship existed between the testator and the beneficiary;
  • The person acting in a fiduciary capacity would receive a substantial benefit under the terms of the transaction; and
  • The beneficiary had the opportunity to influence the grantor’s decision.

Fiduciary relationships do not always need to be formal in nature, but can arise out of a moral, personal, social, or domestic relationship, such as that between a patient and a caregiver.

Preventing Fraud

There are a few helpful tools that a testator can use to help him or her avoid becoming the victim of probate, including:

  • Reviewing his or her financial plans twice a year;
  • Openly communicating with his or her estate planning team, including bankers, accountants, attorneys, and family members;
  • Designating a co-trustee;
  • Requiring double signatures for amounts larger than a predetermined number; and
  • Allowing his or her estate planning attorney to speak with family members and the other members of the estate planning team.

Contact a Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Today

Fraudulent alteration of a will or trust can have devastating consequences for testators and their loved ones, so if you have concerns that a member of your family has been the victim of fraud, please contact Carrier Law by calling 616-361-8400 and we will assist you in scheduling a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help explain your legal options.

What is your role at Carrier Law?

I wear a few different hats!

I work closely with long-term care facilities to discuss any questions they may have regarding a mutual family and let them know we are a resource for them. Likewise, I provide referral information on facilities to our families based on their needs, and to give them the opportunity to take tours ahead of time.

I also work to ensure that the folks who provide the skilled care, room and board, meals, love and compassion get paid each month. I keep the facilities up to date during the Medicaid Application process, from being retained, through approval.

For the Carrier Law team, I manage Human Resources and the various relationships we have with professional organizations and charities across West Michigan.

What do you love about working for Carrier Law?

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is visiting our families in the nursing home, assisted living facilities, and PACE Centers. I’ve worked with facilities from Portage to Muskegon to Cedar Springs, and they reflect our passion for providing the best care possible for our families.

You lead several initiatives benefiting memory care, including The Walk to End Alzheimer’s. What does that mean to you?

Alzheimer’s can be a crippling diagnosis for families. Where to turn, what’s next, how can I afford the cost of care, what care options are there. There is no cure. We’ve been a sponsor of the walk for many years and will continue walking toward a cure.

What makes Carrier Law unique?

The way we support families going through the Medicaid process is incredibly unique. It is a very emotional time for the family because they have been a caregiver, oftentimes for many years, sacrificing their health and financial well-being to care for their spouse or mom or dad.

We take extra care to address questions and ensure the process is moving. Our Medicaid paralegals meet with them once a week, along with my check-ins as the liaison between the nursing home and the family. In a crisis situation, I may talk to the family every day. We do this until their loved one is placed where they can receive the care they need, then we follow up periodically to confirm that all is well.

Thank you to Kris for the inspiring work she does for Carrier Law!