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When undue influence may have corrupted the terms of a New York will

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2024 | Probate |

Adults in New York generally have the legal authority to draft a will or other estate planning documents. They can provide very clear instructions to other people about what should happen with their property after their passing. A will allows someone to leave resources for people other than their closest family members or to designate specific assets intended for particular beneficiaries. Someone’s will allow them to leave meaningful bequests for the people they love the most or to allocate funds for a charitable cause.

Those administering the estate of a loved one or expecting to inherit after an individual dies often feel grateful that their loved one took the time to plan. However, the specific terms included in someone’s may ultimately raise questions about its validity. As a result, sometimes, family members may take legal action against an estate because they believe that an outside party exerted undue influence on a testator.

What constitutes undue influence?

The term undue influence refers to scenarios in which one party uses their relationship with someone else to manipulate or control their decisions. For the purposes of estate planning, undue influence involves one party trying to manipulate the legacy decisions of another adult. Usually, the person manipulating the testator is in a position of trust or personal authority. Children, grandchildren and spouses could exert undue influence on someone. Professional caregivers who provide daily support for vulnerable adults could also potentially influence their estate plans.

How can families prove undue influence?

There are several key elements to a claim of undue influence pursued in the New York probate courts. The first involves establishing that the testator was somehow vulnerable. The second necessary factor for an undue influence claim is that someone was in a position to leverage authority or manipulate the testator. Finally, the person accused of undue influence typically needs to benefit from someone’s estate plan.

The more records families have of someone’s prior estate planning efforts and other unique family circumstances, the easier it may be to prove that an outside party inappropriately influenced the final terms set by a testator. Contesting a will based on allegations of undue influence may help family members uphold the decedent’s true wishes.

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