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This is a proceeding for the probate of the will of the deceased. The will was propounded by testator’s widow, and contested by and others, children of testator. From a decree of the supreme court, general term, (15 N. Y. Supp. 601,) reversing a decree of the surrogate’s court, Kings County, (10 N. Y. Supp. 744,) refusing probate, and directing issues for a jury, contestants appeal. Appeal dismissed.

The general term, on appeal from the decree of the surrogate, which admitted to probate the will of 1881, and the codicil thereto, and denied probate to the will of 1887, on the ground that it was obtained by fraud and undue influence, reversed the decree ‘on questions of fact,’ and directed issues to be framed and sent to a jury for trial. The appeal to this court is taken on the ground that the general term had no power to review the facts, for the reason that the notice of appeal to the general term did not specify that the appeal was taken on the facts, but was, in general terms only, ‘from the decree and each and every part thereof.’ It is insisted that upon such a notice only questions of law presented by exceptions were brought before the general term, and that it could not reverse on the facts upon a consideration of the weight or preponderance of evidence, or because, in its judgment, the facts should be re-examined by a jury. The appellants rely in support of this contention upon section 2576 of the Code of Civil Procedure. That section, which is found in the article relating to appeals from orders or decrees of surrogates, is as follows: ‘The appeal may be taken upon questions of law, or upon the facts, or upon both. If it is taken from a decree rendered upon the trial by the surrogate of an issue of fact, it must be heard upon a case to be made and settled by the surrogate, as prescribed by law for the making and setting of a case upon an appeal in an action.’ The claim is that, if the appellants desire a review upon the facts in the Supreme Court, they must so specify in their notice of appeal. Section 2576 does not require that such specification should be made, nor is it elsewhere prescribed, but this, as is claimed, is an implication from the language of the section. We are not satisfied that this contention is well founded. Section 2574, which prescribes how an appeal may be taken, declares that it must be by written notice, to be served, ‘referring to the decree or order appealed from, and stating that the appellant appeals from the same or from some specified part thereof.’ It is not required that the grounds of the appeal shall be stated in the notice. If, under section 2576, it is necessary to specify that the appeal is upon the facts, in order to give jurisdiction to the appellate court to review them, it would seem equally necessary that, if the appeal was upon the law, it should be so specified, in order to enable the court to review the exceptions. We think section 2576 was intended to declare affirmatively the power of the general term to review both the facts and the law on appeals from surrogate’s

The appellants rely in support of this contention upon section 2576 of the Code of Civil Procedure. That section, which is found in the article relating to appeals from orders or decrees of surrogates, is as follows: ‘The appeal may be taken upon questions of law, or upon the facts, or upon both. If it is taken from a decree rendered upon the trial by the surrogate of an issue of fact, it must be heard upon a case to be made and settled by the surrogate, as prescribed by law for the making and setting of a case upon an appeal in an action.’ The claim is that, if the appellants desire a review upon the facts in the Supreme Court, they must so specify in their notice of appeal. Section 2576 does not require that such specification should be made, nor is it elsewhere prescribed, but this, as is claimed, is an implication from the language of the section. We are not satisfied that this contention is well founded. Section 2574, which prescribes how an appeal may be taken, declares that it must be by written notice, to be served, ‘referring to the decree or order appealed from, and stating that the appellant appeals from the same or from some specified part thereof.’ It is not required that the grounds of the appeal shall be stated in the notice. If, under section 2576, it is necessary to specify that the appeal is upon the facts, in order to give jurisdiction to the appellate court to review them, it would seem equally necessary that, if the appeal was upon the law, it should be so specified, in order to enable the court to review the exceptions. We think section 2576 was intended to declare affirmatively the power of the general term to review both the facts and the law on appeals from surrogate’s

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In a proceeding for the judicial settlement of the final account of the preliminary executors and the executors of the will of the deceased, for the period from November 1, 1995, through May 28, 1999, the petitioner appeals, as limited by his brief, from so much of an order of the Surrogate’s Court, Kings County), dated February 9, 2004, as denied his motion for summary judgment fixing his compensation as preliminary executor in the sum of $2,563,803.81 and granted that branch of the cross motion of Long Island College Hospital, Polytechnic University, Chemical Heritage Foundation, and the Attorney General which was for summary judgment limiting his compensation for all services as an executor of the decedent’s will, whether performed as a preliminary executor or as an executor, to the sum of $400,000.

The petitioners, were named co-executors in article fourteen of the decedent’s will, which provides: “The commissions payable to my executors shall be according to the New York statute then in effect, but shall in no event exceed the sum of $800,000, which amount shall be divided between my executors, if more than one shall be serving, as they may agree, recognizing the extent of the duties and the relative difficulty of the duties assumed by each or done by each in his respective tenure in office, and the remaining duties and their extent remaining after his tenure, and I direct that each executor agree in writing to that provision as a condition of qualifying.” In the event either or both nominated executors failed to qualify, nonparty Fiduciary Trust Company International of New York was named as an alternate executor. Following the death of the decedent, petitioners offered the will for probate on November 3, 1995. On the same day, they filed a petition for preliminary letters testamentary. Preliminary letters testamentary were issued on November 20, 1995. The will was admitted to probate on July 8, 1996. The preliminary letters were vacated, and letters testamentary were issued to the petitioners. On November 4, 1996, petitioner filed a renunciation of compensation provided under the will pursuant to SCPA 2307 (5). Wagner did not renounce the provision limiting his compensation as executor. On November 25, 1996, the executors, petitioners filed a successful ex parte petition for advance payment of commissions pursuant to SCPA 2311, requesting that each executor receive $200,000 on account of their commission. In his supporting affidavit, petitioner purported to preserve his right to statutory commissions under SCPA 2307 by reason of his renunciation. In July 1999, when the executors filed an account of their administration of the estate and petitioned for the settlement of their account, petitioner requested that he be awarded full statutory commissions of $5,323,112, less the $200,000 advance. Wagner only requested that the court award him $400,000 in compensation as provided in the will, of which $200,000 had been paid. The residuary beneficiaries of the estate, several charitable entities, including Long Island College Hospital, Polytechnic University, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation, as well as the Attorney General, statutory representative of charitable beneficiaries (hereinafter collectively the Charities), objected to the accounting, inter alia, on the ground that petitioner was not entitled to statutory commissions. The Charities contended that the will limited compensation to the sum of $800,000, petitioner was required to either accept the compensation cap or not serve at all, and because petitioner petitioned for preliminary letters testamentary in which he swore that he was entitled to letters testamentary immediately upon the probate of the will, he satisfied the condition precedent to qualifying by implicitly accepting the compensation provided in the will, notwithstanding his renunciation.

Contrary to petitioner’s contention, the Surrogate’s Court properly denied his motion for summary judgment to fix his statutory compensation as preliminary executor in the sum of $2,563,803.81, and granted that branch of the Charities’ cross motion which was for summary judgment, inter alia, limiting him under the will’s provisions to the sum of $400,000 as compensation for all services as an executor, whether performed as a preliminary executor or as an executor of the estate.

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These two proceedings to compel the production of the wills of the testator, ask the court to seal the documents which have been produced by the respondent.

By petitions dated July 25, 2008, petitioners sought to compel the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to produce documents in their possession purporting to be the wills of the testator. Pursuant to SCPA 1401, the court directed the NYPD to produce any documents in their possession purporting to be the decedents’ wills in court on August 12, 2008.

On August 12, 2008, counsel for the petitioners, counsel for the testator’s parents, and counsel for the NYPD appeared in court. The NYPD complied with the order and turned over the documents to the court. Asserting that matters contained in the documents may cause embarrassment to the decedents and their families, the petitioners, joined by the testator’s parents and the NYPD, made an oral application to seal the documents. The court declined to entertain the oral application and instead provided the petitioners, and the parents, as well as the NYPD, with an opportunity to submit their written application by August 14, 2008. In the interim, the court has maintained the relevant documents in chambers. The petitioners submitted their written application, while the testator’s parents and the NYPD did not.

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The defendant moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Section 476 of the Civil Practice Act on the ground that plaintiffs’ complaint fails to state a cause of action. The motion is granted.

The complaint alleges that plaintiffs are sons of the decedent, there is no indication that they are the only children, and that decedent prior to her death employed the defendant, an attorney, to prepare a will for her execution. It is claimed that decedent directed the defendant to provide for a residuary clause naming plaintiffs as legatees thereof. The decedent could neither read nor write English and she executed the will relying, it is claimed, on defendant’s representation that the residuary clause had been prepared as directed whereas, in fact, the residuary clause was omitted from the will. Although decedent has been dead since January 30, 1961, there is no allegation that the purported will has been admitted to or offered for probate. No copy of the purported will is attached to the complaint nor are any of its provisions pleaded so that the court may know what provisions, if any, were made for the plaintiffs in the purported will. No allegation is made as to the identity of the decedent’s heirs-at-law who would succeed to the residuary estate in the absence of a provision for the disposition thereof in the will.

Plaintiffs urge the sufficiency of their complaint on the basis of two California cases, Biakanja v. Irving, 49 Cal.2d 647, 320 P.2d 16, 65 A.L.R.2d 1358 and Lucas v. Hamm, Cal.App., 11 Cal.Rptr. 727; 56 Cal.2d 583, 15 Cal.Rptr. 821, 364 P.2d 685. They claim that Goldberg v. Bosworth, 29 Misc.2d 1057, 215 N.Y.S.2d 849 (Special Term, Supreme Court, Kings County, 1961) follows the California decisions.

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There are three proceedings pending in the estate of the decedent: (1) a miscellaneous proceeding to declare the decedent’s Living Trust dated March 19, 2001 invalid; (2) a proceeding to probate an instrument dated March 19, 2001 as the decedent’s last will and testament; and (3) a proceeding by respondent as trustee of the decedent’s Living Trust dated March 19, 2001, to judicially settle his account for the period from March 19, 2001 to May 9, 2007. On July 1, 2010, the court appointed a guardian ad litem for one of the decedent’s daughters, in all three proceedings.

The decedent died on May 9, 2007, survived by four distributees: two daughters, a son; and a granddaughter, the only child of the decedent’s predeceased son. The propounded will pours over to the living trust. The living trust provides only for the son, specifically omits the two daughters, and does not mention the granddaughter.

The guardian ad litem has filed a preliminary report in which he details his findings to date and, based upon them, recommends that he continue to represent his ward’s interests in all three proceedings. The guardian ad litem reports that the daughter has alleged that the son exerted undue influence and fraud upon the decedent at a time when he was physically ill and depressed. The guardian ad litem states that, based on his investigation, he deems it appropriate to participate in the SCPA 1404 examinations in the probate proceeding and to continue to represent his ward’s interests in all three proceedings. The court agrees with his conclusions.

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On December 2, 1999 a will was admitted to probate on August 16, 2001, reads as follows: “All the rest, residue and remainder of the property which I may own at the time of my death, real and personal, and whosesoever the same may be situate.” There is no more. The name of the intended beneficiary of the residuary is missing. As a practical matter, the residuary clause amounts to only 10% of the estate, since the will made pre-residuary bequests of 90% of the net estate.

Petitioner as executrix of the will, has petitioned for construction of the will by reading the residuary clause to be the same as decedent’s prior will dated June 18, 1997. The residuary clause of the 1997 will provided: “All the rest, residue and remainder of the property which I may own at the time of my death, real and personal, and whosesoever the same may be situate I give, devise and bequeath to my nephew, per stirpes. In the event that my nephew, does not survive me, his share shall go to his wife.”

The nephew died on November 25, 2000, without issue and testator died on November 30, 2000. The persons who would take the decedent’s estate in intestacy are a niece, and a great nephew. The niece has filed a consent to the relief requested in the petition for construction. The nephew defaulted in appearing on the return day of the proceeding.

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This is a motion for an order directing the proponent, who is decedent’s widow, to appear for an examination before trial to enable petitioner to frame objections to the propounded instrument bearing date March 10, 1961, and for other relief.

The filing of a petition and service of a citation in a Surrogate’s Court proceeding is analogous to the service of a summons and complaint in an action brought in a court of record pursuant to the Civil Practice Act. Under Article 29 of the Civil Practice Act, § 288 et seq. and the Rules of Civil Practice, a party served with a summons and complaint may be afforded an examination of the complainant or other party in order to frame an answer (Cuban Telephone Co. v. Conklin, 196 App.Div. 463, 187 N.Y.S. 817). Movant, petitioner herein, is one of decedent’s distributees named in the propounded instrument, and in the probate petition and the citation served upon her. Movant is in the position of a defendant served with a summons and complaint, while proponent may be compared to a plaintiff in such an action. The fact that a pro forma answer in the nature of a general denial may be filed is no bar to such examination since a defendant may not know at the time whether he wishes to defend at all (Cuban Telephone Co. v. Conklin, 196 App.Div. 463, 465, 466, 187 N.Y.S. 817, 818, supra; Boyd v. Boyd, 276 App.Div. 1013 1014, 95 N.Y.S.2d 268, 269; Public National Bank v. National City Bank, 261 N.Y. 316-319-320, 185 N.E. 395-396; St. John v. Putnam, 128 Misc. 707, 220 N.Y.S. 146) . The present application is somewhat analogous thereto. The provisions of the Civil Practice Act apply to proceedings in the Surrogate’s Court (Surrogate’s Court Act, § 316).

The Surrogate has incidental powers with respect to ‘all matters subject to the cognizance of the court, according to the course and practice of a court having common law jurisdiction of such matters, except as otherwise prescribed by statute’. The Court of Appeals in one case, 248 N.Y. 67, at page 72, 161 N.E. 421, at page 423, said, ‘the powers that are specific shall hereafter be read as being ‘in addition to and without limitation or restriction on’ the powers that are general.’ Surrogate’s Court Act, § 20, subd. 11. Section 40 of the Surrogate’s Court Act confers jurisdiction upon the Court to administer justice in all matters relating to the affairs of decedents, as to any and all matters necessary to be determined in order to effect complete disposition of the matter.

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The petition presents an issue under the doctrine of ‘incorporation by reference’ as applied to wills. The petitioner a sister of the testator, presents an unwitnessed holographic instrument executed January 9, 1968 (‘January instrument’) and also a duly executed instrument (which has been proved as a will) dated February 20, 1968 (‘February will’).

The January holographic instrument necessarily must be denied probate. It was executed in New York; the decedent was not a member of the armed forces; it is unwitnessed. (EPTL 3–2.2, 3–2.1.) As already noted the February will has been duly proved. The January instrument disposes ‘of my entire personal estate’ to the petitioner.

The February will provides: ‘FIRST: I ratify and confirm all wills heretofore made by me at any time in every respect, except insofar as the same is inconsistent with the provisions of this codicil. SECOND: I direct that any monies realized from any and all Stocks and Bonds in my name be divided equally between: (listing three brothers and his sister petitioner herein).’

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This is an application for limited letters of temporary estate administration. Decedent executed a will in Ireland which was witnessed by the manager for the United States Lines in Ireland and the American Consul in Cork. Beside a small bequest to a friend, the entire residuary is bequeathed to the decedent’s granddaughter. The will does not name an executor. The decedent’s granddaughter petitions for probate of the will and for letters of administration c. t. a. She makes this motion for limited letters of temporary estate administration so that she can commence an action against the United States Lines before the statute of limitations runs out. This motion is opposed by one of two sisters who are distributees of decedent, on the ground that the wrongful death suit is ‘exclusively for the benefit of the decedent’s wife, husband, parent, child or dependent relative.’ She argues that the decedent’s granddaughter is none of these and that under section 118 of the Surrogate’s Court Act, letters should issue to a distributee, namely, herself, so that she might bring the action against the steamship line.

The applicable federal statute provides that the action shall be maintained by the personal representative of the decedent (Title 46, Sec. 761, U.S.C.A.). Since it appears that the will of decedent is uncontested and that on its probate the decedent’s granddaughter would be entitled to letters of administration c. t. a. as the sole residuary legatee (Surrogate’s Ct. Act, § 133, subd. 2) and would be the person authorized under the federal statute to prosecute the action, the Court will appoint her Temporary Administratrix under Limited Letters, upon qualifying according to law. Upon the will being admitted to probate, the Temporary Letters will be revoked and letters of administration c. t. a. will issue to the decedent’s granddaughter nning. Settle decree on notice.

In another case, a lawyer said that a probate proceeding petitioner claims that under the terms of the propounded instrument she is entitled to decedent’s net estate and to letters testamentary. The respondents have appeared and filed their consent to probate the instrument, but dispute petitioner’s claim. A construction is requested to determine whether the provisions of paragraph ‘Fourth’ are operative and dispose of decedent’s estate.

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This is a probate case where the decedent died on May 1, 2004, leaving a will which was admitted to probate on July 7, 2004. The decedent was survived by his four children. The will makes pre-residuary cash bequests of $45,000.00 to each of the children. The will further provides that the decedent’s residuary estate be divided equally among his four children. Letters testamentary issued to Executor on July 7, 2004.

The son originally filed a First and Final Accounting of his proceedings covering the period May 1, 2004 through January 31, 2008. Thereafter, he filed a document which covers the period from May 1, 2004 to January 31, 2008, the same period covered by the First and Final Accounting. The Interim Account was verified by the son on February 18, 2009, nearly one year after the First and Final Account.

Another son filed objections to the accounting which raised several issues. The parties stipulated at trial that the estate had the burden of proof on the issue of whether the decedent make a loan to the oppositor In addition, the parties acknowledged that administrator son took an advance payment of commissions in the amount of $10,0000.00, without prior court order and repaid the sum of $10,000.00 to the estate.

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