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For Estate Planning, Estate Administration And Disputes

Understanding the role of undue influence in will contests

On Behalf of | Aug 27, 2021 | Estate Litigation |

When you anticipate inheriting a certain amount or certain assets when a New York loved one dies, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise if things do not play out as you expected. You may not challenge a will simply because you disagree with how its author chose to make distributions. However, you may be able to do so if certain circumstances have occurred that call into question the validity of the document.

Per the New York City Bar, there are very limited circumstances under which you may be able to challenge a will. If you believe someone pressured your loved one into authoring the will in a certain way, you may be able to challenge the will based on an allegation of “undue influence.”

Defining undue influence

To make an allegation of undue influence during a will contest, you must be able to show several specific things. First, you need to prove that the testator, or the person who created the will, had diminished capacity that may him or her susceptible to outside influences. Then, you need to show that someone influenced the testator in a manner that would benefit him or her, even if the action went against the testator’s wishes.

Responding to undue influence allegations

Undue influence is often difficult, but not impossible to prove. This is due to the fact that there are often no witnesses involved in these cases. However, if a judge agrees that a will’s contents are invalid because someone influenced the testator, he or she may invalidate all – or part – of the will.

If a judge invalidates a will in its entirety, New York’s law of intestacy may determine how distributions ultimately occur.