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What Do I Do if My Loved One Was Manipulated into Changing Their Will?

Posted August 13, 2017

A common reason for a Will to be contested is when there is evidence of “undue influence.”  Undue influence is another way of saying that someone in your loved one’s life took such advantage of their position of trust that your loved one’s judgment and desires became substituted or impaired.  One of the most frequent types of elder abuse is financial, which can happen when an older person makes a sudden new so-called best friend, or when one family member inserts him or herself as the exclusive decision maker. Ultimately, your loved one’s free will becomes obscured by the manipulative party, they may be isolated from contacting others, and they may be coerced into creating estate planning documents or transferring assets into the hands of the manipulator.  Factors that contribute to a person’s susceptibility in being manipulated, according to the American Bar Association, include:

  • Advanced age;
  • Isolation, loneliness and seclusion;
  • Death of a spouse;
  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Dependency on others for physical and emotional needs;
  • Diminished mental capacity; and
  • Undetected pathology, such as Alzheimer’s.

Common warning signs of undue influence and/or fraud include wills that were not drafted by an attorney; estate plans that leave the majority of property to one person and, for no apparent reason, leaves others out; estate plans that leave a great sum to a non-relative; estate plans that leave a great sum to a hired professional such as a health care provider, accountant, or attorney; and estate plans that were not signed in the presence of a lawyer.

Time Frame for Contesting a Will in New Jersey

A Will cannot be offered for probate for 10 days after the decedent has passed away. After the Will has been admitted to probate, a resident of New Jersey has up to four months to file a contest, according to New Jersey Courts Rule 4:85. If you are not a resident of New Jersey, you have up to six months to file a contest if the Will has been admitted to probate. Sometimes that time limit can be extended if fraud has been discovered. We do recommend taking action swiftly in all will contests, and to refrain from any delay even if you are grieving.

Contact a New Jersey Attorney at Once

While the vast majority of Wills pass through probate without being contested, if you have an issue with the Will of a loved one who has recently passed away, it is crucial to seek the aid of an experienced attorney at once. The time frame for filling to overturn a Will is limited, and the sooner you talk with an attorney, the more time your legal team has to prepare to contest. Call the New Jersey attorneys of Foss, San Filippo & Milne, LLC today at 732-741-2525.