New York laws allow people to create and maintain estate plans to choose to whom assets will be left upon their deaths. These plans typically include wills and trusts, and inter vivo transfers could also form part of estate planning. Unfortunately, many unscrupulous opportunists find ways to misuse others and take advantage of them. Typical targets are older people who own substantial assets and who are vulnerable because of illness, memory problems and isolation from family members.
The opportunists are often in positions of trust, and they manipulate and deceive older adults into including them as beneficiaries in trusts and wills. They might also try to convince the testators to bestow them valuable gifts. Wills, trusts and inter vivo transfers are often modified without the knowledge of the immediate family. It is usually only after the death of the testator that irregularities are suspected.
When family members who expected inheritances find themselves cut out of a loved one’s will in favor of a person who had a confidential relationship with the deceased, questions typically arise. When such a person unexpectedly receives a substantial inheritance, it can give rise to a presumption of undue influence. It could also stem from the beneficiary suggesting a specific lawyer to draft the will and then instructing the lawyer what to include in the will or how to modify an existing will.
This could lead to the contesting of the will, trust or inter vivo transfer, a challenging field of the law because the testator is deceased and unable to tell his or her side of the story. A New York estate planning attorney who has experience in dealing with contested wills can be an invaluable asset throughout ensuing legal proceedings. If the lawyer can establish evidence of undue influence, it would be the burden of the unexpected beneficiary to prove the opposite.