Articles Posted in Staten Island

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In an action to recover damages for personal injuries and for wrongful death, the defendant (hereinafter Standard) appeals from so much of an order of the Supreme Court, Kings County, dated December 16, 1985, as, inter alia, denied its cross motion to dismiss the complaint as against it.

The decedent initially commenced this action for personal injuries against the defendant Standard, claiming that he was injured by the inhalation of asbestos. Special Term granted the motion of the decedent’s daughter, to be substituted as the plaintiff in place and stead of her father in her capacity as the executrix of his estate and to amend the original complaint to include a cause of action for her father’s alleged wrongful death. Special Term denied Standard’s cross motion to dismiss the complaint as against it, rejecting Standard’s argument that the Surrogate’s Court, Kings County did not have the power to declare the executrix of her father’s estate and probate his will since he was a domiciliary of Florida at the time of his death.

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When indicted for multiple counts of handgun possession and a single count of possession of weapons with intent to sell, the defendant, waived a jury and the case was tried by the court. Decision was reserved pending submission of briefs. This is the decision and its reasoning. The case could have been tried on an agreed statement of facts; the only issue for the court to decide and upon which my decision turns is the defendant’s state of mind during the time he purchased and stored the handguns.

On April 15, 1985, pursuant to a search warrant, officers of the New York City Police Department searched the defendant’s room in a YMCA and recovered 14 handguns and a quantity of ammunition. The defendant had been employed as a cab driver and hoped to open a sporting goods store; the weapons had been purchased as stock for the yet to be opened store. The police learned of his cache through his procurement of the necessary federal licenses to make the initial wholesale purchases.

On March 25, 1985, a federal inspector visited his room at the “Y” to conduct an administrative inspection of the premises listed on the defendant’s federal firearm’s license; two citations resulted. Defendant contested the citations in the form of a “Notice of disagreement” wherein he argued that since he was not presently conducting a retail business in his YMCA room, he was not in violation of the particular regulations; he served the notice upon both the federal agency and the Police License Bureau. The visit of April 15 was the official response.

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The decedent died in May 2004, leaving a will which was admitted to probate. 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 petitioner in July 2004.

The Petitioner originally filed a First and Final Accounting of his proceedings covering the period May 2004 through January 2008. Thereafter, he filed a First Interim Account of the Estate of the decedent. This document covers the period from May 2004 to January 2008, the same period covered by the First and Final Accounting. The Interim Account was verified by Petitioner in February 2009, nearly one year after the First and Final Account.

The brother filed objections to the accounting. The parties stipulated at trial that the estate had the burden of proof on the issue of whether the decedent made a loan to the brother. In addition, the parties acknowledged that petitioner 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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A New York Probate Lawyer said this is a proceeding submitted for decision wherein the issue is the source of payment for fees awarded to a guardian ad litem. In this probate proceeding, the will “pours over” into an inter vivos trust. The court is tasked to decide whether trust assets can be used to pay all or part of the fee under SCPA 405(1).

The court finds that the fee may be paid from trust assets.

Queens Probate Attorneys said that on 24 January 2006, F died a resident of Nassau County. On 24 October 2003, he had created the “F Revocable Trust U/A dated 24 October 2003.” At that time, F also executed his will, the instrument that is offered for probate. Both instruments were drafted by the decedent’s long-time attorney who also supervised the execution of both documents. As is customary with estate plans of this sort, the bulk of the decedent’s assets were transferred to the trust while he was alive. As a result, the will was designed to be a “catch all” so that any stray assets left in the decedent’s estate would be captured and distributed in accord with the terms of the trust. The probate petition reflects a probate estate of less than $10,000.00 while the trust holds assets close to $1,000,000.00.

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A New York Probate Lawyer said that, this proceeding requires consideration of SCPA 205 (L 1984, ch 128, effective June 21, 1984) which substituted the flexible and waivable concept of venue for the inflexible and non-waivable concept of subject matter jurisdiction in all proceedings brought in the Surrogates’ Courts of the state. As a result of this new statute, each Surrogate’s Court in every county now has statewide subject matter jurisdiction subject only to the consideration of venue. An issue of the proper venue has been raised in this proceeding.

A New York Estate Lawyer said that, for many years before her death, decedent resided in New York County. On June 21, 1984, she was admitted to Montclair Nursing Home in Nassau County, where she died seven months later on January 31, 1985. The issue of venue arises because proceedings have been commenced in both the Surrogate’s Court of Nassau County and the Surrogate’s Court of New York County. On July 26, 1985, an instrument dated September 18, 1981 was offered for probate in Nassau County. Four days later, on July 30, 1985, decedent’s sole distributees (two nieces) petitioned for letters of administration in this court. Needless to say, these petitioners contend that the instrument propounded in Nassau County is invalid. The basis for their contention is not relevant to this decision.

The issue in this case is whether the venue of the estate proceeding is proper.

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On 22 April 2009, EB, a resident of Nassau County died purportedly leaving a will dated 20 March 2009. He was survived by his wife from a second marriage, JB, and by five children.

A New York Probate Lawyer said that under the purported will, one-third (1/3) of the residuary estate is to be placed in a supplemental needs trust for the decedent’s wife; the remainder of the residuary estate is to be divided into seven equal shares with one share for each of the EB’s children (other than P) and the decedent’s three step-children; and, it nominates KH, EB’s daughter, and PH, KH’s husband, as executors.

Consequently, the purported will was offered for probate by the nominated executors. On 12 May 2009, a waiver and consent was signed by JB. On 16 June 2009, it was filed with the court. P, one of EB’s children, is under a disability. Thus, a guardian ad litem was appointed for her.

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A New York Probate Lawyer said that, a person claiming to be a creditor of the decedent applies for the issuance to him of ancillary letters of administration. It is conceded that the decedent was domiciled in Ohio, and that letters of administration were issued by a competent tribunal of that State to another person. The petition alleges that the decedent left personal property in New York consisting of ‘Royalty contracts of United Music Corporation.’ The Ohio administrator submitted an answer on September 18, 1962, alleging that there are no assets of the decedent within the State of New York. He does admit the contract between the decedent and United Music Corporation, ‘a publisher in the County of New York’, but he makes the somewhat ambiguous allegation that ‘no revenue or income’ was at that moment due the estate except ‘some writers’ royalties.’ He also asserts that there is no need for ancillary administration because, in his status as domiciliary administrator, he has been collecting the royalties due under that contract, and has experienced no difficulty in the prompt collection of them. He denied knowledge or information as to the validity of the petitioner’s claim, and he requested that if ancillary letters are to be issued, they be issued to him. The Public Administrator asserted that his right to letters were superior to that of the petitioner and requested the issuance of letters to him. During the proceeding the petitioner conceded the superior right of the Public Administrator to letters. The matter was placed upon the calendar for hearing of the contested issue as to the existence of any asset in New York County.

A New York Will Lawyer said that, after the matter was placed upon the hearing calendar, the Ohio administrator attempted to avoid meeting that issue by going through a form of sale of all the decedent’s rights under the contract. In October, 1962 he applied to the Ohio court for permission to sell all of the decedent’s interest in the musical composition ‘Huckle Buck’, which is the composition published by United Music Corporation, and he obtained judicial permission to sell it ‘at the best price obtainable’. No mention was made in that application of the proceedings in this court or of the petitioner’s claim. On October 31, 1962, the Ohio administrator signed an instrument which purports to transfer to a third person all of the decedent’s interest in the composition, the copyright thereto, and any extension and renewal. The consideration recited in that instrument is $2,500 and payment of that sum to the Ohio administrator was proven.

A Nassau County Probate Lawyer said that, an officer of the United Music Corporation was called as a witness by petitioner. It appears that the decedent had assigned to that corporation all of his interest in the composition, and the corporation agreed to pay specified royalties. Royalties were regularly paid during the decedent’s lifetime, and up to the end of June 1961. In August, 1961, the sum of $2,137.68 was paid to the estate, presumably for the period ending June 30th. The witness testified that royalties were being held by the corporation and that for the period July 1, 1961 to December 31, 1962, the accrued royalties amounted to $2,729.73. There was a lack of agreement among counsel as to how long the copyright still has to run, and definitive proof on that question was not submitted. It appears, however, that the copyright is still in existence. We do not have proof of the precise amount of accrued royalties on October 31, 1962. That figure was always obtainable by the administrator from United Music. The only figure near that date is the $2,729.73 accrued on December 31st, just two months later. Thus it is clear that in this hasty sale, the Ohio administrator sold for $2,500 the estate’s interest in accrued royalties of an approximately equal sum and also all of the estate’s future interests in the musical composition, the royalties, the copyright and any extension or renewals. If the sale is a bona fide sale, it was an incredible bargain for the purchaser, who not only bought nearly two thousand eight hundred dollars at a discount but all rights to future royalties.

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In this Estate Litigation action, the will of the testatrix bequeathed her husband a general legacy of $2,500 and named him as income beneficiary of a trust of one-half of the residuary estate. The remaindermen of this trust are charities as also are the legatees of the remaining one-half of the residuary estate. The husband filed objections to the probate of the will and challenged the bequests to charities as violative of Decedent Estate Law, § 17.

A New York Probate Lawyer said that negotiations between the husband and the charities resulted in an agreement by the terms of which the husband withdrew his objections to probate, consented to the admission of the will to probate and renounced and released any and all rights granted to him by Decedent Estate Law, § 17. Five charitable organizations agreed, in the same instrument of settlement, that immediately upon the issuance of letters testamentary the executrix would pay to the husband the sum of $26,000. The agreement stated that ‘except as in this stipulation and agreement provided, all of the provisions of aforesaid Will shall remain in full force and effect’.

The executrix now is accounting and has computed the amount of the husband’s trust in compliance with the provisions of the will and has deducted the $26,000 payment to the husband from the share of the residuary estate which, under the will, is payable to charities. IA New York Will Lawyer said certain of the latter have objected to this allocation of the settlement figure and they assert that the payment to the husband under the settlement agreement should have been deducted, in the manner of an administration expense, from the full residuary estate prior to the computation of the amount of the residuary trust.

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The decedent died in November 2005. A New York Probate Lawyer said its distributees are the spouse, the claimant and two other children. Preliminary letters testamentary issued to the claimant, by order entered and letters testamentary issued to him. In the probate petition, the claimant listed estate assets consisting of personal property of $100,000 and Bronx realty valued at $500,000. The decedent’s will devises the Bronx realty outright to the spouse, and divides the residuary estate 61% to the spouse, 7% to each of his three children and 3% to each of six grandchildren.

A Bronx County Probate attorney said that the documents and the claimant’s deposition testimony reveal that, following the decedent’s divorce from the claimant’s mother, the claimant became a tenant in common in the Bronx realty with the decedent, by purchasing his mother’s 50% interest therein for $40,000. Thereafter, the day the will was executed, the claimant conveyed his 50% interest in the realty to the decedent for $50,000, which the claimant admittedly received. The deed recites that the conveyance was in consideration of $50,000 and any other valuable consideration “paid” by the decedent.

A New York Will Lawyer said in the petition filed, the claimant commenced this proceeding alleging the following: (1) the claimant was unable to exercise good judgment at the time he transferred his interest in the property to the decedent as the claimant was then suffering from a bipolar disease; (2) the decedent took advantage of his poor judgment by acquiring his interest, which was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, for “inadequate” consideration of only $50,000; and, (3) the decedent failed to honor his promise to pay the claimant an additional $250,000 at an unspecified later date. The claimant seeks either the $250,000 claimed, or a reconveyance of his interest in the realty for $50,000.

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A New York Probate Lawyer said that, in this uncontested proceeding to probate a will dated December 2, 1991, the issue presented is whether the bequest to decedent’s friend is void under EPTL 3-3.2 in light of the fact that he was one of the three attesting witnesses and that decedent’s son, whose legacy under the will is less than his intestate share as one of decedent’s six surviving children, was also one of the attesting witnesses. The third attesting witness does not receive any disposition or appointment under the will.

The issue in this case is whether the bequest to decedent’s friend is void under EPTL 3-3.2 in light of the fact that he was one of the three attesting witnesses and that decedent’s son, whose legacy under the will is less than his intestate share as one of decedent’s six surviving children, was also one of the attesting witnesses.

A New York Wills Lawyer said the court in deciding the case said that, EPTL 3-3.2(a)(1) provides that an attesting witness to a will to whom a beneficial disposition is made is a competent witness who can be compelled to testify with respect to the execution of such will but that the disposition to the attesting witness is void “unless there are, at the time of execution and attestation, at least two other attesting witnesses to the will who receive no beneficial disposition or appointment thereunder.” The purpose of the statute is to preserve the maker’s testamentary scheme to at least some extent by making all attesting witnesses competent while preserving the integrity of the process of will executions by removing the possibility that attesting witnesses who receive a disposition under the will might give false testimony in support of the will to protect their legacies.

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