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Court Rules on a Will Contest Matter

A proponent of the will of Lina G. Shapiro, petitioned the court at the foot a probate decree to charge the person objecting to the will personally. The probate decree allows this application to be made after the decree has been final.

A New York Probate Lawyer said that when a person files an objection to a last will and testament in good faith and with reasonable grounds, he is entitled to have his protest investigated without him bearing the cost. There was a previous case whereby the Appellate Court reversed a decision of a surrogate court for an objectant to be charged personally because there was some evidence that supported his objection to the lack of testamentary capacity and to negative bad faith. This was in the Coddington will.

Good faith is mainly reliant on whether there is a considerable basis for a will contest. The court cited some examples, like with the Kurowski’s will, where the court charge the cost of the contest personally to the objectant because she had a sworn data that validates the will she is contesting. The Roger’s estate was mentioned because the court assigned the cost to the person who contested because there was no evidence to support his claim. This is not the sole basis for imposing the cost to an unsuccessful contestant.

Let us go back to why there is a contest for this case. In a will executed by Ms. Shapiro dated April, 22, 1958, she disinherited her daughter. The daughter then filed objections to the probate questioning the due execution and saying that there was fraud and undue influence. It also challenged the jurisdiction of the court. She claimed that at the time of her mother’s death, her mother was a principal resident of Florida and not New York. The court was able to determine that the decedent was a resident of New York and not Florida in July 1962. This was still appealed by the daughter but was still affirmed in January 1963.

In May of 1963, her objection with regard to fraud and undue influence was tried by the court with a jury. A Manhattan Probate Lawyer said that the contest about the due execution was withdrawn when it reached trial. After three days in the trial, the court determined that there was no fact to be submitted to a jury so it ruled in favor of the proponent of the will. The daughter did not file an appeal. The evidence at trial proved that the will was valid. The disinheritance is a result of friction that started in 1956, where Ms. Shapiro purchased $120,000 of stock from her daughter’s husband. The husband then questioned the sale saying that Ms. Shapiro misrepresented the value of the stocks. The daughter’s husband insisted on attempting to interrogate Ms. Shapiro, even if there is a sworn statement from a doctor that such examination would put her mother’s life in danger because of a heart ailment. By the time that Ms. Shapiro died there was already great hostility between her, and her daughter whom she disinherited.

According to a Queens Probate Lawyer, the court then found that the contest was filed in bad faith. It is also confirmed that the testatrix intended for the daughter to be disinherited, and it contains stipulations to that effect. With antagonism between them, the daughter couldn’t have logically expected her mother to make any provision for her. There was no evidence to support her claims and objections. The evidence provided pointed that the daughter just wanted to delay the probate with a contest. The court awarded the costs to the proponent less $158 for the transcript that will be charged to the daughter personally.

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