Working through the estate administration process, whether in New Jersey or elsewhere, can be challenging in many ways. This is particularly true if there are concerns that undue influence was behind a loved one’s estate planning decisions. When this is suspected, estate litigation may be unavoidable.
Undue influence is defined as an uneven or unhealthy relationship in which the victim is easily persuaded to make decisions that are to his or her influencer’s benefit. For example, an influencer may suggest the need for a will update and convince the victim to name him or her as the sole or primary beneficiary — cutting out previously named beneficiaries or at least reducing how much other heirs receive. Sometimes, will updates may include changes that the victim is not fully aware of because he or she trusted his or her influencer to write up the document and then signed it without giving it a second thought.
Influencers come in many forms — family members, friends and even traditionally trusted professionals, such as medical providers or financial advisors. A victim, regardless if he or she is of sound mind, may become isolated by this individual to the point where he or she is entirely dependent on the influencer. Influencers take advantage of their victims when they are most vulnerable — they may be sick or have suffered a significant loss, leaving them more fragile and persuadable.
Those behind undue influence do what they do for their own financial benefit. There is no concern for the victim or the victim’s loved ones. When undue influence is believed behind the contents of a will, it is possible to have the validity of the will questioned. An estate litigation attorney can assist those who would like to file will contest claims in a New Jersey court if doing so is deemed appropriate.