The subject of undue influence is treated once more by the New York Supreme Court’s First Appellate Division in In Re Will of Ryan, 824 N.Y.S. 2d 20(A.D. 1st Dept 2006). After being disinherited by their mother, under a will which she made at the age of 89, the decedent’s children filed objections to their mother’s will claiming that she was unduly influenced by their older brother Tomas.
The objectants claimed that their mother’s relationship with Tomas consisted of her always being willing to take his side in all disputes and that this unduly influenced her to disinherit her three other children in order to appease him.
The court held that " to be undue, the influence exerted must amount to mental coercion that led the testator to carry out the wishes of another, instead of her own wishes, because the testaor was unable to refuse or too weak to resist". An objectant must make a showing of "motive and opportunity" to exert undue influence as well as that such influence was actually utilized.
In proving undue influence, the court stated that circumstantial evidence might be introduced to show "all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the testator , the nature of the will, family relations, the condition of health and mind, dependency upon and subjection to the control of the person supposed to have wielded the influences, the opportunity and disposition of the person to wield it, and the acts and declarations of such person".
Being able to employ circumstantial evidence,however, did not equate with being able to establish a case for undue influence.In this action. The court found that the evidence which was submitted was "conclusory and speculative" and that it did not meet the high burden of proof needed to establish undue influence. It appears that one fact the objectants were relying upon to prove their case was that the attorney-draftsman of the will was a close friend of Tomas. This was insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact on the question of undue influence.