Let me start with this – I am not a psychologist. I am a lawyer – a lawyer who at this stage of my career is heavily focused on estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation. So much so that I wrote a book focusing on estate and trust wrongdoing – The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse.
Writing a book is a terrific learning experience – it causes you to focus on what you know, what you hear and what you probably don’t know. So, I’ll start with what I know, in this case, about the issue of codependency. I know that it is generally defined as a dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility or underachievement.
I hear a lot about codependency – although for the most part the term is not used – in estate and trust litigation matters. A common element in undue influence cases involving a parent is the existence of an alcohol or substance abuse addiction in a child.
The addicted child often uses undue influence to have a parent transfer assets to him alone, whether while the parent is living, or pursuant to the terms of a will or trust. These transfers are often made to the exclusion of other siblings.
“’Undue influence’ means excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will and results in inequity.”
And what are the ways that a codependent parent relates to an addicted child? Well, I don’t know all the ways, but I know some. Making excuses and covering up addictive behavior is common. This is an effort to prevent negative consequences for the addicted child’s actions.
This, of course, creates disincentives to the addict from changing his behavior.
Financial assistance for the codependent pervades undue influence scenarios in estate and trust litigation. The parent does not want to lose the relationship with the addicted child, and it seems preferable to provide financial assistance rather than see the addict engage in stealing or other dangerous activities. Looking away from your child’s violence, aggression and recklessness rather than confronting the child with consequences enables the addict to continue this type of activity.
As I first stated, I am not a psychologist and cannot provide great advice as to how to correct this type of behavior. I am engaged in regular litigation against addicted children who have overpowered an elderly parent’s free will. Undue influence often causes the parent to change trust or estate distributions that run counter to the elder’s previous wishes.
There is, of course, far more to financial elder abuse that what I can address in this short video.
Hackard Law takes substantial California cases where we think that we can make a significant difference and there is a wrongdoer that can be made to account for their wrongdoing.
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