Legal problems regarding a last will and testament are never a source of joy for families, even for the party or parties who initiate them in hopes of getting more of what they deserve, perhaps especially for them. Family members of the late Robert Cohen, founder of Hudson News, a chain of newsstands and stored typically found in airports and train stations, are currently embroiled in a probate dispute over Cohen’s will.
Robert Cohen’s granddaughter Samantha Perelman reportedly accuses her uncle James Cohen, Robert Cohen’s son, of intentionally getting her written out of his father’s will after he developed a debilitating disease with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s. She claims that James Cohen exerted undue influence upon her grandfather on several occasions in order to get him to reduce her inheritance.
Undue influence is probably the most common allegation in will disputes, and basically means that the accused party exerted an inappropriate degree of psychological influence upon the testator with the intention of obtaining an excessive benefit or of interfering with another beneficiary’s inheritance. The specific requirements for proving undue influence are unique to each state.
In the Cohen dispute, the case centers on the issue of whether Robert Cohen’s physical condition—which eventually left him unable to walk, speak or take care of himself—combined with James Cohen’s alleged influence, are enough to invalidate the changes to his will. Even if he is determined to have been of sound mind—this was in fact determined to be the case in a previous trial—he still may have been unduly influence.
Source: CNBC, “Billionaire’s daughter in NJ court in will dispute,” September 28, 2013.