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Parties Seek a Judgment as a Matter of Law

A New York Probate Lawyer said that records reflect that in a contested probate proceeding, the objectants appeal from a decree of the Surrogate’s Court, which, after reserving decision on the proponent’s motion pursuant to CPLR 4404 for judgment as a matter of law, made at the close of the evidence, and after the trial ended in a hung jury, upon the granting of the motion and determining that the will in question was duly executed and not a forgery, inter alia, directed that it be admitted to probate.

After the parties rested at trial, the proponent moved pursuant to CPLR 4404 for judgment as a matter of law. The Surrogate’s Court reserved decision on the motion and submitted the issue to the jury. After the trial ended in a hung jury, the Surrogate’s Court, upon granting the motion and determining that the will in question was duly executed and not a forgery, inter alia, directed that it be admitted to probate. Contrary to the objectants’ contention, the Surrogate’s Court properly entertained the motion after the trial ended in a hung jury.

A New York Estate Lawyer said that moreover, the Surrogate’s Court properly granted the proponent’s motion. Although the objectants alleged that the will was forged and not duly executed, they failed to adduce sufficient evidence, as a matter of law, to support their objections. Where, as here, the attorney-draftsperson supervised the will’s execution, there was a presumption of regularity that the will was properly executed in all respects. In addition, the self-executing affidavit of the attesting witnesses created “a presumption that the will was duly executed” and also constituted “prima facie evidence of the facts therein attested to by the witnesses”. The objectants failed to overcome this presumption, as a matter of law, because they relied upon either the failure of the attesting witnesses to recall the circumstances of the will’s execution or a highly selected reading of their prior deposition testimony which was controverted by the rest of the witnesses’ testimony. Furthermore, the testimony of the objectants’ expert did not, as a matter of law, establish that the will was forged. The objectants’ remaining contentions are without merit.

New York Probate Lawyers said that the law provides that, ‘Any person whose interest in property or in the estate of the testator would be adversely affected by the admission of the will to probate may file objections to the probate of the will or of any portion thereof except that one whose only financial interest would be in the commissions to which he would have been entitled if his appointment as fiduciary were not revoked by a later instrument shall not be entitled to file objections to the probate of such instrument unless authorized by the court for good cause shown’. However, the law also provides that, ‘before admitting a will to probate the court must inquire particularly into all the facts and must be satisfied with the genuineness of the will and the validity of its execution. New York City Probate Lawyers said that the court may, however, accept an affidavit of an attesting witness in the manner and under the circumstances prescribed. 2. If it appears that the will was duly executed and that the testator at the time of executing it was in all respects competent to make a will and not under restraint it must be admitted to probate as a will valid to pass real and personal property, unless otherwise provided by the decree and the will and decree shall be recorded. 3. Where the petition alleges that the testator has disappeared under circumstances sufficient to justify the belief he is dead the court shall take proof of the facts. If it appears that the testator is dead the court may make a decree determining such fact and admitting the will to probate. The decree shall be binding in its effect upon the interests in the estate of persons under disability and of future contingent interests of persons not in being as well as the interests of adult competent persons.’

Stephen Bilkis & Associates, with offices located throughout New York, its Kings County Probate Attorneys and its New York Estate Lawyers, are familiar and experienced in handling cases such as the instant case, or actions involving Estate Litigation, Will Contest, Estate Administration and the likes. Hence, if you are in need of a legal advice, consult with your preferred legal team.

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