8. The Danger of Undue Influence
Those closest to our clients are not always acting in their best interests. Be it caregivers, children or friends, your client’s closest confidants all have their own motivations—both sinister and innocent—and their proximity to your client, particularly as that client ages and their world shrinks, can give them outsized influence. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s certainly better to have a loving child or caregiver at a client’s side to guide them as they age. However, it’s up to you, the fiduciary to remain vigilant and determine when that influence strays from what’s in the best interest of your client, and perhaps, most challenging, communicate to your client that their closest friend/relative is acting against them. You don’t get paid the big bucks because the job is easy after all.
In the case of the Osage, William Hale is basically undue influence personified. He showed up in Osage territory as a cattle rancher and eventually built himself up, both in terms of wealth and his ties to the Osage community, until he was at the top of the food chain. Then he systematically worked behind the scenes to undermine the Osage and gather as much wealth and power for himself, in the form of their headrights, as he could, eventually masterminding the serial murder of Osage tribespeople known as the “Reign of Terror.”