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Undue Influence

New York City Lawyer for Undue Influence Claims

A last will and testament is only valid in New York when the person who is making it, known as the testator, freely executed it, was competent to execute it, and followed certain legal formalities. Wills can be challenged in several different ways by interested parties. These parties include beneficiaries of a prior will and heirs. One basis for challenging a will is proving undue influence. With this type of claim, the interested person must show that the testator was manipulated into making a will that wouldn’t have been made otherwise. Undue influence is asserted, in other words, when someone hopes to get hold of the assets and property of a person who is vulnerable or with whom they are in a confidential relationship. Whether you need to bring or defend against a will contest, you should discuss your situation with experienced New York City estate litigation attorney Jules Haas.

Undue Influence

Not everyone is entitled to bring an undue influence claim. Rather, only those with standing may challenge the will in this fashion. For instance, heirs who would inherit under the rules of intestacy, such as a spouse and children, are legally entitled to object to the will on the basis of undue influence. Beneficiaries named in the testator’s previous will are also considered interested parties. They can bring a will contest on the grounds of undue influence.

When your attorney is trying to prove undue influence, it must be demonstrated that someone named in a will that’s being probated manipulated the testator into drafting the will in a way that he wouldn’t otherwise have done. In other words, the influence must be moral coercion that the testator couldn’t resist and wasn’t something he would have done without being influenced.

Will contests arising out of undue influence can be hard to establish. The testator has already passed and can’t say what circumstances surrounded the making of the will of the decedent. In some cases, the contents of the will are a complete surprise to beneficiaries who had not been told they were disinherited or removed from the will be the decedent. The court will consider the following factors in finding there was undue influence:

  • Whether the testator’s health was deteriorating either mentally or physically.
  • Whether the bequests were reasonable given the circumstances.
  • Whether the testator was vulnerable or dependent upon the undue influencer, such as when an undue influencer is a caregiver.
  • Whether the undue influencer isolated the testator from his or her family.
  • Whether the undue influencer secured the witnesses to the will at issue and whether the testator knew them or not.
  • Whether the undue influencer was physically present when the will was executed.
  • Whether the undue influencer was physically present when the testator stated he or she wanted to draft a will.
  • Whether the undue influencer had a prior relationship with the attorney who drafted the will and recommended him or her.
  • Whether the undue influencer knew what was in the will before the will named him or was drafted.
  • Whether the testator acted secretly, or whether others, such as beneficiaries of a prior will or heirs in the case of intestacy, knew about the terms of the new will.
What Counts as Undue Influence in New York City?

Simply requesting a bequest or testamentary gift from the testator doesn’t constitute undue influence. For instance, if a friend commented he would like the testator’s classic car when he was visiting, this would not constitute undue influence. Likewise, undue influence is more than a caregiver or other person in relationship with the deceased saying critical things to him about family or relatives who would naturally inherit or who are already specified in the will. Instead, a claim of undue influence arises because there is a relationship of care or financial trust, or another relationship that results in a person pushing the testator into making or changing the will in a way in which he otherwise wouldn’t.

An attorney would need to show that the person who manipulated the testator did, in fact, influence the behavior of the testator. It isn’t enough to show that the person had a chance to influence the testator.

Consequences of an Undue Influence Claim

When it is proven the will submitted for probate was subject to undue influence, the last will and testament will be invalidated by the New York Surrogate’s Court. In that case, the prior will should be probated. And if there is no prior will that is enforceable, the estate will be treated according to intestacy rules. For instance, if a decedent left everything to a medical caregiver, but undue influence is found by the court, a surviving spouse or kids may inherit everything.

Consult a Seasoned Estate Litigation Attorney

New York City estate litigation attorney Jules Haas may be able to represent you in connection with undue influence claims. Call him for a free consultation. Mr. Haas represents clients in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Kings, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. Call him at (212) 355-2575 or contact us through our online form.

Client Reviews
I am very grateful to Mr. Jules Martin Haas attorney of law in New York. I am from Buenos Aires Argentina. He managed with expertise a very difficult situation. of a complicate heritage from my aunt Anna Grodzka that lived and died a very long time ago in New York. I recommend him not only for his extraordinary knowledge but also for his kindness. Irma CW Peusner
I found Mr. Haas after being misguided by a former attorney. Mr. Jules Haas took our case which involved an estate/trust dispute. What initially seemed like an impossible and overwhelming legal fight was now in the hands of someone who had the integrity and legal expertise to win our case. Mr Haas' attention to detail and his expert knowledge base, skillfully and successfully guided us through an intricate legal process. I am very thankful and grateful to Mr. Jules Haas for representing our interest and ultimately winning. Bringing about a peace of mind we needed. Thank You Devida Nedd
I was in need of a guardianship attorney and I hired the services of Jules M. Haas' Law firm. The service of counselor Haas and his staff, was very profesional and the case was handled in a timely matter. I would strongly recommend his services Angel Guevara
I strongly recommend Jules Haas. I have worked with him for two years and he has provided so much support and followed through with everything he promised he would do. His support staff is just as helpful! We had an interesting case and he helped to solve each part of it legally and was very thorough. Thank you for everything you have done to finalize our families estate Robyn Stafford
Jules Haas helped me with managing the process in probate court for my father's estate through to its completion upon the sale of my father's house. He was knowledgeable, efficient, and effective in submitting documentation to the probate court, explaining procedures to me, and advising me as to the progress of my case. His support staff was also very helpful. He made what for me created so much anxiety into something manageable where I could see progress every step of the way. His fees were very reasonable. I am super grateful to him for all the help he has provided and strongly recommend his services. Diana Janer
I just completed an estate transaction where Jules Haas represented my client in an estate and he did a great job! He was very quick at responding to all matters throughout the sale process, he was detailed, he was knowledgeable and he was a pleasure to work with. I just recommended him to some new clients who are going through an estate matter and will continue to recommend him. Rodolfo Lucchese