When is Friendliness with an Elderly Person Crossing the Line
One of the more common themes that people argue when they are contesting a will is that someone who has suddenly become a major beneficiary in the will somehow used undue influence to shut out those who were the beneficiaries in a prior will or who would normally have been considered the heirs. Many times the argument is that the person who ended up getting a large bequest, or even the entire estate, “tricked” the decedent into writing the will in their favor, to the detriment of those more deserving. However, the law is more complex than that and this isn’t an issue where there is a black and white answer, although there are some traits that do signal that a relationship is one of undue influence. In any case where you question whether someone’s behavior regarding an elderly may be undue influence, you should contact a Long Island estate attorney to discuss the matter.
It is not so uncommon for an elderly person to leave a gift in their will or will the entire estate to someone who had a profound impact on their life in their final days. This, in itself, is not illegal and is not always a sign of undue influence. It is quite possible that the person to whom the gift was made legitimately earned the affection of the decedent for a variety of different reasons including being a favorite child, putting an extraordinary amount of time and effort into the decedent’s care or even just being a companion or friend. Simply being friendly with an elderly person is not undue influence.
When friendly actions do become undue influence is when those actions serve to substitute the elderly person’s will for the person who benefits from the will. There are a variety of things that can clue someone in to this being the case. One is that an attorney connected to the person using undue influence is used to draft the will and that it was changed under the radar of the beneficiaries. Another clue would be if the influencer isolates the elderly person from friends or family, putting themselves in a position where they would be able to push their will on the decedent. The mental condition of the decedent is also something to be considered, for example, if someone who has Alzheimer’s all of a sudden signs a will leaving everything to an aid, they may have been more susceptible to changing their will since they may not have mentally understood what they were doing.
In general, undue influence can be a challenging accusation to substantiate when contesting a will because not everyone who influenced an elderly person to get them to change their will used particularly blatant tactics to do so. The bar is set pretty high when it comes to the level of misbehavior that has to be present for there to be undue influence, meaning that the result could be a long and bitter legal battle. If you are in any case where there is a dispute over a will with accusations of undue influence, a wise move would be to hire a Long Island estate attorney who has successfully handled such cases before, such as Albert Gurevich, Esq. We can be contacted at (516) 777-0647.