There are certain kinds of people who intentionally target aging individuals for fraud. Sometimes they are nursing home or house care staff. Other times, they are people who become romantically entangled with someone near the end of life. Their ultimate goal is to receive a portion or all of someone's estate by preying on the emotions of someone in their last years. There are a number of different approaches to this kind of fraud, but the goal is always the same. An otherwise unrelated person gets added to a last will. That person then receives valuable assets because of his or her unscrupulous behavior.
People who work for your loved one may use pity as a weapon. By casually telling stories about the difficulties of their lives and their financial woes, these people use a position of trust to manipulate those they are paid to care for. There are also those who will initiate romantic relationships with people in hopes of inheriting their assets. If your parents or other older loved one has recently lost a spouse, unethical people could take advantage of the loneliness that comes from losing a spouse. Your loved one might not realize that someone is being manipulative in hopes of inheriting something.
Probate court allows you to contest a problematic will
If your loved one added a new heir toward the end of life, it may come as a surprise to you and other heirs and family members. Many times, these new additions come at the expense of other people. If you were shocked by a change to a last will or estate plan, you should speak with an experienced probate attorney. Your attorney can help you review the situation to determine what options are available. Depending on the situation, you may be able to contest the will if your loved one was:
-suffering from lack of mental capacity
-was under undue influence
-the victim of fraud
When that happens, the courts will examine the relationship and evidence of how each part behaved. In some cases, there may be a pattern of behavior with previous inheritances from unrelated people or very short, end-of-life marriages. Home security systems could provide evidence as well, as could other employees who witnessed interactions. Your attorney can help you determine how you can convince the courts of undue influence or fraud. In cases of lack of mental capacity, medical evidence may be available to substantiate your claims.
If the courts determine the will is invalid, typically they will decide to divide all assets on behalf of the deceased. That means that the New York probate courts will have the ultimate say in how assets from the state are divided. If there was a previous will, they may consider that. They may also follow procedures for when people die without a will, which could mean only family members receive a portion of the estate.