What is undue influence and how can it impact an estate?

People generally create a last will, trust or estate plan to protect their last wishes and provide for their loved ones and causes after death. Sometimes, however, the last will or estate plan ends up looking much different from what everyone in the family or the presumptive heirs expect. When that happens, there is a good chance the will will get contested and end up in New York probate court.

When a will goes to the probate courts for approval, anyone in the family or considered an heir can contest the content of the last will. However, in order to do so, that person must have valid grounds for the contestation . Some of the more common arguments include lack of mental capacity, lack of validity, duress, fraud and undue influence. Of these issues, undue influence is likely one of the most common, but also most difficult to prove.

What is undue influence?

Undue influence , at its most basic, is when a person other than the testator has direct influence over the terms of a last will or estate. Many times, this influence coincides with decreased mental faculties in an individual. An aging or ailing person is more susceptible to manipulation and attempts at control than those in peak physical and mental health.

One or more individuals could begin to pressure someone or slowly engage in activities like gaslighting, intended to make that person question his or her own perceptions of reality. For example, a child of the testator could slowly, over many months, convince an ailing parent that a sibling was abusive or abandoned his or her parent, even if it isn’t true. This could result in changes to a last will or estate plan that reduce or eliminate the inheritance of the other sibling.

Proving undue influence is hard but not impossible

One of the most difficult things about proving undue influence is finding evidence to support the claim. Often, the influencing episodes take place in private, without any witnesses. You will want to see if there is any proof available to you. Nurses, home health aides and other medical professionals may have overheard something that you could use as evidence. There could also be a digital record if your deceased loved one exchanged emails or text messages with the person who exerted undue influence.

Even very personal records, like a diary or journal kept by the deceased could help prove your point. Seeking witnesses and other documentation of influence can help your case. Similarly, evidence about earlier decisions regarding the last will or estate plan could support your claim that later changes were the result of undue influence. Evidence, documentation and witnesses can all help you build a case when contesting a last will or estate plan because you believe someone else influenced it.

What is an ABLE account?

There are many things that could go wrong with your estate after your death in New York. You will not be here to deal with them, so you have to plan ahead and do what you can now to try to prevent anyone contesting your will or making changes that would negatively impact the family members you want to ensure are taken care of. One area where you may be concerned is if you have a disabled child. Ensuring he or she is cared for after you die is likely incredibly important, but a will contest could put that care in jeopardy.

While there are many options for how you can set money aside to try to prevent issues, one new option is an ABLE account. According to the ABLE National Resource Center, an  ABLE account is a savings account created under the 2014 Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act. The account is tax free and the money in it is used only for the person for which the account was set up. Money in the account can be used for expenses related to the beneficiary’s care. This could include housing, medical bills, transportation, training and general care.

You can set up an account for anyone who was disabled before the age of 26. These accounts can be established to provide for your dependent now and ensure he or she is cared for in the future when you are no longer around. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

Unexpected problems and your estate plan

 Smart estate planning involves a number of strategies and it is essential for you to carefully go over the ins and outs of your plan. Unfortunately, there are a variety of problems that can arise, such as a motor vehicle accident, which may necessitate making certain changes to your estate plan. After a crash, you may be struggling with physical pain, injuries, and other hardships. However, an accident can also upend your financial circumstances and may require that you modify your estate plan.

Aside from hospital bills, sustaining an unexpected injury can interfere with your ability to work. Unfortunately, these accidents can alter the course of your financial future. A car accident or another type of unanticipated problem could have a negative impact on your retirement account, your future earning potential, and other facets of your finances. Moreover, you may have a change of heart following a crash. For example, a parent may change their mind about the way in which they will distribute property among beneficiaries after they pass away. For example, one of their children may have come forward to help after the crash, leading to a change of heart.

Regardless of the unique hurdles you are working through, it is vital to do everything in your ability to protect the property you own and do your best to make things easier for your loved ones in the future. Estate planning can be challenging, but may give you a sense of peace when you know that you are prepared. Our estate administration page has more on estate issues .

Talking to your kids about inheritance

Estate planning can be highly emotional and may also generate uncertainty. For example, you could be unsure of which type of estate plan to go with or you could be worried about how your children will react to the way in which you decide to distribute your assets among beneficiaries. If you are struggling with these types of challenges, it may be helpful to sit down and carefully assess the situation. Moreover, you might find that talking to your children about the situation is beneficial and provides a clearer understanding. However, they may not agree with your decisions, but it is important to remain firm and do what you believe is best.

Children can be upset by the way their parents decide to distribute property after they pass away. Some may feel as if they were cheated out of inheritance they should have received, while others may find themselves in the middle of a contentious dispute. During the estate planning process, it is important to keep these different factors in mind and take steps to reduce the likelihood of such conflict. For example, if you carefully discuss these details with your children, or try to find ways to address any questions or concerns they have, you could be able to minimize or even prevent a dispute within the family.

Deciding how to split up your estate among beneficiaries can be hard, but this is just one facet of estate planning. If you navigate over to our estate administration section, more info on the  estate process is available.

Working through a kinship proceeding

The probate process can be challenging for many different reasons. However, kinship proceedings can be particularly difficult to deal with. Our firm knows that these hearings can be emotionally taxing and have a significant financial impact on those involved. As a result, it is crucial for you to pinpoint the smartest direction forward if you are preparing for a kinship hearing.

If one of your loved ones has recently passed and they had no will as well as no children, marital partner, or parents, you could be able to gain access to inheritance if you were their cousin, aunt, or uncle. In order to do so, however, you will need to prove your kinship. Kinship hearings are emotionally draining, in some cases, and may present a number of hurdles. Not only will you have to show that the person who passed away did not leave behind children or have any parents or a marital partner, but you will have to show your relation to them as well. In fact, you could be required to present various documents and even conduct genealogical research.

Even though kinship hearings can be tricky, you may be able to benefit from a simpler experience if you carefully examine the ins and outs of the process and have a solid understanding of what to expect. If you believe you may be eligible to receive inheritance, you should immediately look into your options. If you visit our kinship page, you can peruse more details regarding kinship proceedings .