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Matter of A.

NY Slip Op 05842

The co-executor of the estate petitioned the court pursuant to 2103 to determine if certain funds were withheld from the estate of A. This appeal is from 2 Surrogate Court orders brought by A.S. Those orders denied AS her cross-motion pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(5) to dismiss the petition regarding two bank accounts. This appeal is dismissed. The second order superseded the first. One bill of costs is awarded to petitioner, payable to A.S.

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A New York Probate Lawyer said that, in this contested probate proceeding, the Court determines that the propounded instrument was not executed as required by Decedent Estate Law, § 21. This statute requires by subdivision 2 thereof, that decedent’s subscription of the instrument shall be made in the presence of each of the attesting witnesses or shall be acknowledged by him to have been so made to each of such witnesses. By subdivision 3 thereof, the statute requires the decedent to declare that the instrument subscribed by him was his last will and testament. Compliance with only one of these requirements may not be urged to constitute compliance with the other.

Since the decedent did not subscribe her name in the presence of the witness, it was necessary that she acknowledge such signature to this witness. This she did not do. The fact that decedent may have declared the instrument to be her will, as required by subdivision 3, does not serve as a compliance with subdivision 2. In re Banta’s Will, 204 Misc. 985, 128 N.Y.S.2d 334. This is especially so where, as here, the appended signature is in a foreign language which the witness cannot read.

Accordingly, the Court finds that decedent did not subscribe the instrument in the presence of the two attesting witnesses and did not acknowledge such subscription to be her signature to said witnesses as required by the statute. The objections are sustained and probate is denied. Proceed accordingly. As an incident to a trustee’s final accounting, the Court is requested to fix an attorney’s fee pursuant to section 231-a, Surrogate’s Court Act payable out of the share of the issue of a deceased remainder man.

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A New York Probate Lawyer said that, before the court is the motion of the nominated successor co-trustee of the trusts created under Paragraphs Second, Third and Sixth of the will of the decedent. Movant seeks summary judgment pursuant to CPLR 3213 granting his petition for appointment as successor co-trustee pursuant to SCPA 1502. In the alternative, movant asks the court to issue an order pursuant to CPLR 3126 striking the objections to his appointment which were filed by a trust beneficiary, for her failure to provide discovery.

The decedent died on February 14, 2008, survived by his wife, hereinafter, “the objectant”, his son, and his daughter. Decedent left a will dated October 27, 2004, as amended by codicil dated October 12, 2006. The will and codicil were admitted to probate by this court on April 4, 2008. In Paragraph Second of the will, decedent established a credit shelter trust for the benefit of the objectant. In Paragraph Third of the will, decedent established a generation-skipping trust for the benefit of the objectant. In Paragraph Sixth of the will, decedent created a residuary trust for the benefit of the objectant. In connection with each of the three trusts, letters of trusteeship were issued by this court on April 4, 2008, to the three nominated trustees and the objectant.

One trustee submitted his written resignation as trustee on February 2, 2010. The nominated successor trustee, executed a renunciation on February 11, 2010. On May 13, 2010, the trustee filed a petition with this court for permission to resign and for the appointment of hereinafter, “movant”, the next successor trustee nominated by the decedent in his will.

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In 1982, the decedent, I. Berk, executed a will naming his sons, J. Berk and H. Berk, as the co-executors of his estate. The will also left his entire estate to his sons and his grandchildren. I. Berk was a successful businessman with substantial assets. Over time I. Berk’s physical and mental health began to deteriorate. Eventually he had to use a wheelchair to get around, suffered memory loss, and was often confused.

In 1997 the petitioner, H. Wang, who was a 40-year-old recent immigrant from China, began to work as the decedent’s live-in caretaker. Eventually, the decedent, became totally dependent on the petitioner, who was constantly with him. Friends of the decedent reported that the petitioner treated the decedent poorly, frequently screaming and shoving him, causing him to become tearful. A friend of the decedent alleged that the decedent told him that he was afraid of the petitioner.

In April 2005 the decedent was diagnosed with dementia by a physician who examined him in connection with a contemplated guardianship proceeding. That physician stated that the decedent was no longer capable of caring for himself or managing his own affairs. Despite this, on June 17, 2005, the petitioner and the decedent got married in the New York City Clerk’s Office. At the time the petitioner was 47 years old and the decedent was 99 years. Neither the petitioner nor the decedent ever told the decedent’s friends, family members, or associates about the wedding. In addition, according to a friend who saw the decedent every day, the decedent and the petitioner never showed affection towards each other and the decedent never wore a wedding band. The decedent’s sons learned of the wedding after the decedent died in 2006, as they were riding in a car to the funeral home with the petitioner. At that time the petitioner told them that she had married the decedent.

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In this case the Surrogate’s Court had to determine whether to probate a carbon copy of a will where the original was purported inadvertently lost or destroyed.

According to the two witnesses, the decedent, L. Levinsohn, executed a will on or about February 27, 1948. They testified that all legal requirements were met. In addition, they testified that at the time Levinsohn executed the will, the decedent was of sound mind and memory and that he was not under duress.

One of the two witnesses was an attorney and was also the person who drafted the will. He testified that immediately after the will was executed, he gave it to the decedent’s son for safekeeping. This witness also testified that he made a carbon copy of the original will which he conformed and kept in his files. The witness submitted the carbon copy for probate.

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This is a Mandamus case by the People, on the relation of individual. From an order of the Appellate Division in the Second Judicial Department, reversing an order of the Kings Special Term, which granted relator’s motion for peremptory writ, plaintiff appeals.

The relator was duly elected the surrogate of the county of Queens at the general eléction in 1910, and his term of office as surrogate of said county had not expired in 1915.

By chapter 443 of the Laws of 1914, which took effect September 1, 1914, chapter 18 of the Code of Civil Procedure ‘in relation to surrogates and the practice and procedure in Surrogates’ Courts’ was revised, and section 2538 thereof now provides: ‘In any proceeding in which any controverted question of fact arises, of which any party has constitutional right of trial by jury, and in any proceeding for the probate of a will in which any controverted question of fact arises, the surrogate must make an order directing the trial by jury of such controverted question of fact, if any party appearing in such proceeding seasonably demands the same. The surrogate in such order must direct that such trial be had either before himself and a jury, or at a Trial Term of the Supreme Court to be held within the county, or in the county court of the county. * * *’

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Testatrix died on March 21, 1954, leaving surviving her son as her only distributee. Her will was admitted to probate June 2, 1956. The delay was caused by difficulty in locating testatrix’ son. The will nominated the attorney-draftsman as executor and trustee but he renounced and the niece of testatrix and a beneficiary under the will was appointed administratrix c. t. a.

The will gives to said niece household furniture and other items and the balance of an account in the South Brooklyn Savings Bank after payment therefrom of funeral and estate expenses. Paragraph ‘Fourth’ creates a trust of the residuary estate for the benefit of testatrix’ son. The article in question reads as follows: “FOURTH’ All the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate, both real and personal, of whatever nature, and wherever situate, I give, devise and bequeath in TRUST, for a period of five (5) years from the date of my death, to my son, said trust is for the purpose of providing necessary clothing and medical care for my son. At the end of the five year period, if my son, cannot be located, then I give, devise and bequeath the remainder of this trust to my aforementioned niece. If my son should die before the five year period has elapsed, I give, devise and bequeath the remainder of the trust to my aforementioned neice. As trustee of this trust I hereby appoint my lawyer with power to invade the trust for the above mentioned purposes, no bond being necessary for the faithful performance of his duties as trustee.’

This proceeding seeks a construction of paragraph ‘Fourth’ of the will to determine the intention of testatrix with respect to whether testatrix’ son is entitled to the remainder of the trust or whether the niece is entitled to the remainder.

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This action is in the nature of quo warranto, brought by the attorney general upon his own information, pursuant to section 1948 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The action is primarily against certain persons alleged to have usurped and entered into the office of city magistrates in the boroughs constituting the Second division in the city of New York. Pursuant to section 1954 of the Code, the persons who claim to have been elected to said offices, and rightfully entitled thereto, are also made defendants.

The complaint proceeds upon the theory that under section 1392 of the Revised Charter of New York City, enacted in 1901, there was a valid election in the fall of that year, at which certain persons were elected to the office of city magistrates in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Richmond, who are prevented from discharging the duties thereof and receiving the emoluments belonging thereto by the unlawful usurpation of said office by the defendants above named. Said defendants, by their answer, challenge the constitutional validity of said charter provisions, and allege their own legal incumbency of said office pursuant to legal appointments made prior to said election. To this answer the plaintiffs interposed a demurrer on the ground that it is insufficient in law.

For the purposes of administration of criminal justice, the greater city of New York, under its original charter, enacted in 1897, was divided into two divisions. In the first division were the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx; in the second the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Richmond. Section 1390. When said charter went into effect, the office of city magistrate was in existence in the former city of New York, having been established by chapter 601 of the Laws of 1895. Section 1392 of said charter provided that the city magistrates in office when it took effect should continue to hold their office until the expiration of their respective terms, and should be known as the city magistrates of the First division; that their successors should be appointed in the same manner, and have the same powers and duties, as provided by said chapter 601, Laws 1895. The act just referred to provided that such magistrates should be appointed by the mayor for terms of 10 years. On account of the different conditions which prevailed in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Richmond, the charter provisions relating to the office of city magistrate in these boroughs were more elaborate than those above summarized.

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In this estate case, petitioner appealed an order and judgment (one paper) of the Supreme Court, Suffolk County, dated February 10, 1981, as denied his motion for summary judgment and thereupon dismissed a writ of habeas corpus. By order dated July 25, 1983, this court remitted the matter to the Supreme Court, Suffolk County, to hear and report, and held the appeal in abeyance in the interim.

Pursuant to an order of this court, this matter was remitted to the Supreme Court to hear and report on the issue of whether the appellant’s failure to appear on March 7, 1978, the date set for the hearing on a petition to adjudge him in contempt of court for noncompliance with a turnover order in a probate proceeding, constituted a voluntary waiver of his right to be present and proffer evidence in his defense. Initially, we note that a prompt evidentiary hearing on this issue was obstructed for over three years by the appellant’s numerous, meritless attempts to appeal directly to the Court of Appeals or collaterally attack this court’s order dated July 25, 1983.

At an evidentiary hearing commenced on September 25, 1986, the appellant’s former wife, who is an attorney, testified as a witness. According to the witness, on March 7, 1978, the appellant was of counsel for her client in the trial of a matrimonial action before a Justice, in the Supreme Court, Bronx County. Since the testimony of a witness had not been completed on March 6, 1978, the Justice directed the parties to return with counsel the next day to continue the trial. To her knowledge, the appellant was on trial before the Justice the entire day of March 7, 1978. The witness conceded that she had not attended the trial of the matrimonial action on either March 6 or 7, 1978, but maintained that she knew the aforenoted facts were true from having read the trial transcript when the judgment in the action was on appeal.

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In an action, inter alia, to set aside a conveyance of certain real property, the defendant appeals, as limited by his brief, from so much of an order of the Supreme Court, Kings County as granted the plaintiffs’ cross motion to disqualify the law firm from representing him in the action.

The court ordered that the order is reversed insofar as appealed from, on the law, with costs, and the cross motion is denied.

The defendant correctly contends that the Supreme Court erred in disqualifying the law firm from representing him in this action. The disqualification was based on an alleged conflict of interest arising from the law firm’s previous representation of the deceased aunt of the plaintiff in a real property transaction with the defendant.

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