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Will Contests - What is a Legitimate Ground to Contest a Will? Undue Influence - Part 3

Posted by attorney Theodore Robinson

Undue influence generally refers to someone other than the Testator/Maker of the Will who exercises too much influence over that Testator/Maker and, as a result, imposes their will over that of the Maker of the Will to give them their estate rather than their children or someone else. At the very minimum, the object-ant who is contesting the Will must make a showing of actual acts of undue influence which must include showing the times and places of such occurrences of undue influence to the satisfaction of the court Undue influence may be proved by circumstantial evidence but the circumstances must lead to [that conclusion] not only by a fair inference but as a necessary conclusion. To avoid the will of a competent testator on the ground of undue influence, the contestant must show facts entirely inconsistent with the hypothesis of the execution of the will by any means other than undue influence. In re Will of Henderson, 253 A.D. 140, 145 (1937). That means that although most instances of undue influence are typically proved by circumstantial evidence rather than direct evidence, it does not mean the object-ant can maintain such a claim without specific and serious proof of actual undue influence. In such a case where an object-ant fails to offer such a material issue of fact it has been found proper for the Surrogate to issue a summary judgment. In fact, where any reasonable conclusion other than undue influence is supported by the facts, it is improper to conclude that undue influence existed. So if you're going to start a Will Contest, you had best be prepared to show actual or clearly inferred proof that there was undue influence used on the Maker of the Will to change their mind and get them to leave something to the wrong person due to the undue influence of that person or someone acting on their behalf.

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