Articles Posted in Estate Administration

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This is a proceeding to construe the last will and testament of a testatrix who died on April 18, 2010, survived by five children. Her will, dated September 1, 2006 (the “Will”), was admitted to probate on July 2, 2010 and letters testamentary issued to petitioner, one of her children. Article SECOND of the Will established a credit shelter trust for her husband, with remainder to her children. Article THREE left the “rest, residue and remainder” of her estate to her husband outright. Her husband predeceased her and she provided in Article FOURTH that if her husband predeceased her, she left “all the rest, residue and remainder of my estate, real, personal and mixed and wheresoever situated”

The estate is sufficiently large to generate a New York State estate tax. Article FIFTH of the will provides that “All estate, inheritance, transfer, succession or other similar taxes shall be payable out of the residuary of my estate”. The executor asks that the Court construe the gift to real property to the devisee in Article FOURTH(A) as a preresiduary gift and the remainder clause of Article FOURTH(B) as the residuary estate. The executor brings this construction proceeding, since he claims that not all of the residuary beneficiaries agree with his interpretation.

In the Will in question, Article FIFTH directs that the payment of estate taxes be paid from the residuary estate. The problem is that the Will contains two residuary clauses. The first is found in the preamble to Article FOURTH, which disposes of the “all rest, residue and remainder of my estate, real , personal and mixed and wheresoever situated” of the testator’s estate if the testator’s husband predeceased the testator. The second is Article FOURTH(B), which purports to dispose of the “rest and remainder” of the testator’s estate after the devise of real property in Article FOURTH(A).

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In this contested probate proceeding, objectant pro se, moves for an order granting her a trial by jury. The proceeding was commenced by petitioner on December 15, 2005. The objectant filed objections to probate on August 3, 2006.The decedent died testate on October 24, 2005. Petitioner is decedent’s sister; she is a distributee, as well as the nominated executor and residuary beneficiary under the propounded instrument dated May 11, 1974. The objectant is a distributee; she is a daughter of one of the decedent’s pre-deceased brothers. She does not receive anything under the propounded instrument.

The objectant asserts that she verbally requested a jury trial at conferences before two different court attorney-referees and was “told that the conference would be first.” She contends that she was not informed that a jury demand had to be in writing, although she also states her belief that she “signed for this.” Had Katherine advised the court that she wanted a jury trial, she would have been advised to file a jury demand.

In her moving papers, the objectant again asserts that one of the court attorney-referees is “in harmony” with petitioner’s attorney. This assertion was the subject of a prior decision (dec no. 666, October 30, 2007) of the court, which denied the objectant’s motion for disqualification of the court attorney-referee because the objectant did not assert any of the statutory disqualifications set forth in section 14 of the Judiciary Law to support her motion (see Schreiber-Cross v. State of New York, 31 AD3d 425 [2nd Dept 2006] and Moers v. Gilbert, 175 Misc 733 [Sup Ct, New York County 1941][court referee is held to the same standards as a Judge] and because the record did not reveal any other basis on which the court might be inclined to assign a different court attorney to the case.

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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 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).

A Suffolk County Probate Lawyers said that, 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 decedent died on the 9th day of January, 1961, while a patient at the Wolcott Clinic, Wolcott, New York. Thereafter and on the 21st day of February, 1961, the son of the decedent, presented to this Court a petition praying that an instrument in writing dated February 5, 1955, and executed by the decedent purporting to be her Last Will and Testament, be admitted to probate by this Court, which petition alleged, that the said decedent at the time of her death was a resident of the Village of Red Creek, Wayne County, New York.

A Kings County Estate Administration Lawyer said, that thereafter and on the 11th day of July, 1961, the respondent, a niece of the decedent, a legatee under the instrument above recited, presented to this Court a petition putting in issue the domicile of the decedent at the time of her death and requesting a Hearing by the Court to determine the question above stated.

The Court also has before it the motion of the proponent questioning the standing of the respondent to raise the issue before the Court. The matters before the Court are jurisdictional. The one going to the right of petitioner to bring said petition; and the other as to whether the domicile of the decedent was within the jurisdiction of this County at the time of her death.

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This is a proceeding brought before the Surrogate’s Court, Kings County for judicial settlement of the first and final account of proceedings of the CM Bank, National Association, as trustee under Article “Second” of the will OF AGK, deceased, for the benefit of BMK.

This proceeding for settlement of a final trust accounting presents a question of construction occasioned by the bankruptcy of a charitable remainderman designated by the donee of a power of appointment.

On 3 March 1931, the donor of the power, AK, died. He left a 1927 will which was probated in the instant court. Under the will, the net estate shall be divided into three portions and placed in trust, each part to furnish income to one of his three children; and, upon the death of each child, the remainder interest in his or her trust shall be distributed “by valid and absolute disposition by will of such child” and in default of such exercise of the power, “as a part of the estate of such child in accordance with the statutes of descent and distribution of the State of New York.”

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Two subscribing witnesses testified to the due execution of decedent’s holographic will and to her testamentary capacity at the time of the execution; that the last page of the instrument, the only one they saw, bore no additional writings below their signatures.

The changes in the street numbers of the addresses of the legatees under items 13 and 14 are immaterial, as well as the interlineation of the amount of the legacy of item 13, as the amount thereof was increased by figures immediately above it and that in turn was interlined and the original amount reinstated with the initials of the decedent above it; the amount of item 16 was interlined, and a lesser sum substituted therefor immediately above it, which in turn was likewise interlined and the original amount restored. Equally immaterial is the phrase in item 15 which reads ‘in payment of money ($500) she gave my sister Mae and for which I thank her.’ Those interlineations and additions being fair upon their face and unexplained by any evidence to the contrary must be presumed to have been made before the execution of the will. Crossman v. Crossman, 95 N.Y. 145, 153.

The Court finds that the following legacies were originally written in the following sums: item 6–$1,000; item 17–$100; item 18–$100; item 19-$50; and item 20-$200, which sums were interlined and other sums substituted in their places; the interlineations were made either in pencil or ink and the substituted sums in ink, which ink interlineations and substitutions are in different color ink than the original legacies, wherefore it is found that such interlineations and substitutions of different sums were made subsequent to the execution of the will.

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The contestant has made application to the Court for an order vacating and setting aside the proponent’s demand for a bill of particulars, or in the alternative, modifying said demand, and for such other, further and different relief as to the Court may seem necessary and proper. The proponent’s demand for a bill of particulars is directed to the allegations of fraud and undue influence in paragraph 3 of the contestant’s objections.

A Kings County Probate Lawyer said that, the application will be treated as though the proponent were seeking a bill by motion in the first instance, since it calls upon the Court to determine the nature and extent of the items, if any, which the contestant should furnish to the proponent.

It is too well settled to require citation of authority, that the proponent in a contested probate may properly require the particularization of the charges of fraud and undue influence asserted to defeat the probate. The real controversy here revolves around the extent to which such particulars ought to be furnished.

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This case was initiated by JC as administrator of the goods, chattels and credits which were of CP, deceased – for leave to compromise a certain claim for wrongful death and to render and have judicially settled an account of the proceedings as administrator – brought before the Surrogate’s Court of the City of New York, Nassau County.

This is a proceeding for leave to compromise an action for wrongful death and conscious pain and suffering.

On 7 June 2000, the decedent died as a result of injuries he sustained in a construction accident in Bronx, New York. He was survived by his wife and two children all of whom presently reside in Ecuador. On 13 October 2000, the court issued limited letters to petitioner, JC, decedent’s uncle, to commence the instant action.

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This case was brought before the Court of Appeals of New York.

The issue here is the power of the surrogate to require an administrator’s bond in double the value of the personal estate in this state of JDP, who at the time of his death was a resident of New Jersey, as a condition to the grant of ancillary administration.

At the time of JDP’s death, his personal estate consisted of personal effects with a value of about $2,500 in New Jersey, and stocks and securities with a value of about $40,000, deposited with a safe-deposit company in the city of Brooklyn.

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