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What is undue influence?

One of the most difficult things about going through the probate process, or even administering a trust that operates outside of probate, is handling conflict between those who stand to benefit from a will or trust.

It is unfortunate, but sometimes, even despite the best planning, formal will contests or legal challenges to a trust are inevitable, as a disgruntled would-be heir or beneficiary is willing to do what they legally can to get what they think they deserve.

Perhaps because it is a nuanced area of the law, one common grounds for challenging a will is to allege that the person who created it suffered undue influence at the time of doing so.

As the name implies, undue influence occurs when a caregiver or other person close to the drafter of a will uses his or her position of power to get the drafter to write the will in such a way as to favor the perpetrator.

It is not wrong per se for family members to share their opinions about estate planning. However a legal line may get crossed when a family member says and does things to interfere with the drafter's free choice. This is particularly so if the drafter of the will is already in a vulnerable position, such is in declining health or even just of an advanced age.

New Jersey courts have issued specific rulings about what is and is not undue influence, as the distinction between undue influence and simply stating an opinion or even just being rude or pushy often depends on the facts of a case. If an executor is facing a claim of undue influence, a New Jersey probate litigation attorney may be able to help.

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