It’s not an uncommon story. In their final years or months, a loved one decides to leave a large amount of assets to someone they have just met. Often, these estate plans defy previous orders that would have passed on assets to family members. In these situations, family members and loved ones are often left whether they can pursue an undue influence claim. This article considers the nature of such arguments.
The Legal Basis of Undue Influence Claims
In New York, undue influence describes the influence to destroy the influence of a person engaged in estate planning and substitute another plan in its place. As a result, the estate planner is compelled to decide against their will due to complexities like fear, the need for peace, or an irresistible urge.
To establish undue influence, several elements must be established including that such an influence asserted, that such influence overpowered the estate planner’s mind and that the estate planner would not have created such a plan without the outside individual’s influence.
Many people think that it will be easy to establish in a court of law that undue influence occurred. In reality, it is critical to remember, several factors must be established. These factors include critical things like the relationship between the estate planner and the potential influence, opportunities to exert undue influence, and the estate planner’s mental and physical state at the time of creating estate planning documents.
What Undue Influence Means in Application
In application, undue influence is often difficult to establish because there is rarely more to provide than circumstantial evidence. To successfully argue undue influence, several elements must be clearly established including the vulnerability of the victim, the influencer’s authority, and the fairness of the result.
Understandably, the threshold for proving undue influence is often particularly high. In the case of Matter of Gorban, a deceased individual placed the name of his companionship on the ownership papers of an apartment as a joint owner. This meant that when the individual died, the asset passed by law to the companion. The deceased individual’s son later claimed that such a transfer was due to undue influence. While the deceased individual had been diagnosed with leukemia at the time, the court determined that there was a lack of insufficient facts to prove that the undue influence had actually been exercised.
One of the best things that a person who wants to avoid undue influence claims down the road can do is to make sure that estate planning documents are clearly written. If you plan on challenging undue influence, it is important to understand that this is a high standard and often one that is not capable of being proven.
Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
The estate planning process might seem challenging, but an experienced attorney can make it much less so. If you have questions or concerns about your estate plan, one of the best things that you can do is to promptly obtain the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney. Do not hesitate to contact Ettinger Law Firm today to schedule a free case evaluation.