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At issue in this proceeding is the right of the trustees of the estate of the donor of a power of appointment to commissions for paying out the appointive property to trustees appointed under the will of the donee of such power.

Testator Mr. S died in 1952. His will admitted to probate in this Court created out of his residuary estate a marital deduction trust for his wife Mrs. S–one coupled with a general testamentary power of appointment. For later discussion, it is observed that under such a power Mrs. S could appoint to her estate or to her creditors or to creditors of her estate or to any other person she may wish. Under the express terms of the will she could also appoint outright or in further trust.

Mrs. S died on June 11, 1969, a resident of Connecticut. Her will has been admitted to probate in the Connecticut courts. By her will she expressly exercised her power of appointment. She first directed her own trustees to pay out of the appointive property all estate taxes on both the appointive property and her own estate assets. She then directed her Own trustees to divide the remaining principal of the appointive property into four shares, each such share to be held in further trust for her four grandchildren with remainder over to her great grandchildren. There are ten such great grandchildren remaindermen represented in this proceeding by a guardian ad litem. Mrs. S appointed as her own trustees the same persons who were already acting as trustees under Mr. S’s will.

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The case involves three issues, first, the probate of a will despite absence of witness to testify for the authenticity of the will. Second, the disallowance of a will alleged to have made under undue influence by the decedent’s heirs. Third, the denial of appeal based on forum non conveniens.

On the first issue, the Court ruled that the propounded instrument offered for probate dated March 28, 1925 was executed thirty-eight years ago. Proof has been submitted that one of the subscribing witnesses is deceased and the whereabouts of the other witness is unknown. The genuineness of decedent’s handwriting and of the deceased witnesses has been proved.

The missing witness had been associated with decedent for approximately two years prior to the execution of the propounded instrument. Thereafter, he had expressed an intention to return to his native country of Scotland. Due to the long span of years since the execution of the instrument proof of the handwriting of the witness could not be obtained despite diligent efforts by proponent to do so.

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Nonparty GA, administrator of the estate of MD, moved by way of order to show cause for an order: 1) cancelling the notice of pendency filed against the subject property on 19 May 2008 by plaintiff CM Inc., successor in interest by merger to AA Mortgage Group, Inc.; and 2) permanently barring as a lien and discharging of record a certain mortgage on the property dated 22 August 2007 given to plaintiff’s predecessor-in-interest by defendant TM, notwithstanding a recorded satisfaction of same dated 4 December 2007.

MD was the owner of the subject property located at 748 Decatur Street in Brooklyn, having taken sole title as tenant by the entirety following the death of her husband, PD.

On 9 February 2006, MD died.

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This is a motion filed by the executrix requesting the Surrogate to fix the New York estate tax – Tax Law § 249–w.

The executrix made a motion to fix the tax returnable on 16 March 1972. While the State Tax Commission was duly served, no order fixing the tax has, 2 years and 9 months later, been submitted to the Surrogate. The executrix requests the Surrogate to act in his judicial, rather than administrative capacity, and to fix the tax.

The Commission appeared but made no response, formal or informal, to the relief requested by the taxpayer.

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This is an appeal brought before the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, Kings County.

The issue here is (1) whether a power of attorney which conferred limited realty management powers upon JSF was one “relating to an interest in a decedent’s estate” and was therefore ineffective under EPTL 13-2.3 for failure to record it in the Surrogate’s Court, and (2) whether plaintiff LCC, a corporation dissolved by proclamation of the Secretary of State for nonpayment of franchise taxes in 1978, had capacity to bring this action to enforce obligations arising out of prohibited new business conducted five years after dissolution.

The court concluded that the power of attorney was not ineffective for failure to record in the Surrogate’s Court, and that the plaintiff lacked the capacity to institute this action.

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In a contested probate proceeding, upon a ruling made after close of all the evidence at a jury trial, dismissed all objectant’s objections as a matter of law, dismissed her third objection alleging that the will was procured by the undue influence of the petitioner, admitted the will to probate and awarded letters testamentary to the petitioner.

On 11 April 1986, the objectant appealed. The case was brought before the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, Kings County.

The Supreme Court ordered the decree reversed insofar as appealed from, on the law, the words “and was not under restraint” were stricken from the first decretal paragraph thereof and a provision dismissing the appellant’s first and second objections was substituted therefor, the second and third decretal paragraphs thereof were stricken, and the matter was remitted back to the Surrogate’s Court, Kings County, for a new trial on the appellant’s third objection consistent with the Supreme Court’s order, with costs to abide the event payable out of the estate.

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In a probate proceeding, the decedent’s widow appeals from stated portions of a decree of the Surrogate’s Court, Kings County, dated February 13, 1991, which, inter alia, upon refusing to admit a will to probate, impressed a constructive trust upon the entire estate for the benefit of the beneficiaries named in the will, and directed disposition of the decedent’s estate.

The decedent and his wife, the appellant, executed mutual wills that were mirror images of each other. The couple was childless and wanted their assets to be shared equally by their respective relatives. Accordingly, simultaneous with the execution of the wills, they executed a written contract which prohibited either party from revoking or changing the wills in any way, without the written consent of the other, and they further provided that any attempt to do so would be ineffective as against the claims of the legatees of the mirror wills. The wife survived the decedent, whose will is the subject matter of this appeal. His will provided that a portion of his estate would be placed in trust with the income therefrom to the appellant for life, and the remainder to their relatives, who were enumerated in the will. The decedent bequeathed the rest of his estate to the appellant outright.

After the decedent’s death, the appellant wife, alleging that she could not find the decedent’s will, applied for and obtained letters of estate administration. As the sole distributee, she received the entire net estate. The petitioner (hereinafter the proponent), a co-executor and co-trustee under the will, commenced the instant proceeding against her to revoke the letters of administration that were issued to her, and to admit to probate a conformed copy of the decedent’s will or, alternatively, for specific performance of the aforementioned agreement.

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In this probate proceeding both the petitioner and the respondents ask that the propounded holographic instrument be admitted to probate but differ sharply as to construction of the will. The text of the provisions of the will reads:

‘First, after my lawful debts are paid, I give to my wife all my personal as well as all my real property wherever located together with any mixed property I may have. ‘I hereby appoint my beloved wife executrix without bond of this my last will and Testament. ‘In case of accidental and simultaneous instant death of both myself and my wife and in such case only do I direct my sister in law of 253 East 78 St New York City to be the executrix without Bond of this my last will and Testament and give and bequeath to her all my personal as well as all my real property wherever located together with any mixed property I may have. ‘I hereby appoint my wife to be Executrix of this my last Will and Testament.’

The parties have entered into a stipulation providing: ‘That the wife of the decedent herein, died on the 13th day of February, 1957, a resident of 519 West Chester Street, City of Long Beach, Nassau County, of natural causes. ‘That the decedent herein, died on the 20th day of March, 1957, a resident of 519 West Chester Street, City of Long Beach, Nassau County, of natural causes.’

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The father of decedent, died on April 7, 1901, a resident of the county of New York. His will was duly admitted to probate in the Surrogate’s Court of New York County on April 22, 1901, when letters testamentary were issued. The estate and trusts created under said will are administered in that county. The decedent in this proceeding had a power of appointment of the remainder of a trust created for her benefit under the will of her father. In 1942 decedent’s son, assigned his interests in said trust under the will of the father to several assignees. The propounded instrument which is the subject of this proceeding nominates decedent’s son, and his wife as executors. By her will decedent appointed one-third of the appointive property to her son, and two-thirds to a granddaughter. Citations were issued in this estate to the assignees of said son who do not oppose the probate of the will but object to the granting of letters herein to their assignor and his wife, the nominated executors.

The exercise of the power of appointment relates back to the estate of the decedent. The donor merely utilized this decedent as an instrument for the devolution of the title of his, donor’s property. The objectants have no interest in the estate of this decedent. Their interests are solely in the estate of the decedent as assignees of decedent’s son who was named in decedent’s will to receive one-third of the remainder interest of the trust created for decedent’s benefit under the will of the decedent. Whatever payments may be due the assignees will be directed in the Surrogate’s Court of New York County under the will of the decedent. As executors of this decedent, respondents will not receive any money from the Estate of the decedent in which the movants have any interest. The objections to the qualification of the nominated executors are dismissed and the motion for summary judgment is granted. Settle decree on notice.

In another case is an appeal from an order of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department (241 App. Div. 768, 270 N. Y. S. 981), entered March 30, 1934, which affirmed a decree of the Kings County Surrogate’s Court admitting to probate an instrument, dated October 30, 1930, propounded as the last will and testament of the deceased, and a codicil thereto dated June 9, 1931. Objections were filed to the probate of these instruments on the ground that they were not the last will and codicil of the deceased; that they were not duly executed; that at the time they were executed the deceased lacked testamentary capacity; and that their execution was obtained by undue influence, fraud, and conspiracy. Following a trial before a jury and after the contestants had rested, the surrogate, over the objection and exception of contestants, directed a verdict admitting the instruments in question to probate.

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In this probate proceeding, two non-marital children have moved to have their status as children entitled to benefits under the after-born statute (EPTL 5-3.2) determined. In a prior decision (Dec. No. 80, Feb. 7, 2008), the court ruled that any question regarding a party’s status in a probate proceeding should be determined as a preliminary matter and stayed all other proceedings.

Rather than question any of the underlying facts, such as proof of paternity, the parties have consented to have the motion submitted assuming the truth of the movant’s allegations for a determination of whether as a matter of law those allegations state a cause of action entitling the claimants to after-born status.

The decedent died on January 13, 2007, survived by eleven children; three from a first marriage, four from a second marriage and four alleged non-marital children. The will offered for probate benefits only one child from the first marriage, the petitioner and named executrix, who inherits the entire estate valued at several million dollars.

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