Articles Posted in Staten Island

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In a probate proceeding, Respondent appeals from so much of an order of the Surrogate’s Court, dated April 13, 2005, as, upon its application to fix an attorney’s fee, fixed its fee at the principal sum of $109,620, inclusive of reimbursement of a handwriting expert’s fee of $60,884, and directed the petitioner to refund to Plaintiff the sum of $25,391, and the latter cross-appeals from so much of the same order as partially dismissed her counterclaim, in effect, to reduce the sum owed as reimbursement to the petitioner for the handwriting expert’s fee.The order is modified, on the law and as a matter of discretion, by (1) deleting the provision thereof awarding the petitioner attorney and expert fees in the sum of $109,620 and substituting therefor a provision awarding the petitioner attorney and expert fees in the sum of $58,736, and (2) deleting the provision thereof directing the petitioner to reimburse the respondent the sum of $25,391, and substituting therefor a provision directing the petitioner to reimburse the respondent the sum of $76,275; as so modified, the order is affirmed insofar as appealed and cross-appealed from, without costs or disbursements.

It is settled that the determination of a reasonable attorney’s fee in a matter concerning an estate lies within the sound discretion of the Surrogate’s Court. Where, as here, a dispute arises over the terms of a retainer agreement, the responsibility of interpreting the agreement rests with the Surrogate’s Court. In cases of doubt and ambiguity, an agreement between a client and the attorney must be construed most favorably to the client. Here, the Surrogate’s Court properly construed the subject retainer agreement between the petitioner and the respondent.

However, Respondent is correct that the amount of $60,884 which was included in the principal sum awarded to her as reimbursement for the handwriting expert’s fee was excessive and unreasonable. In our opinion, the appropriate and reasonable amount for the services of the handwriting expert under the facts and circumstances of this case should have been $10,000. Thus, the total award to her should have been $58,736. Since it has already paid $135,011 to respondent, she is entitled to be reimbursed the sum of $76,275.

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A New York Probate Lawyer said that, plaintiff was a patient of the decedent doctor, a general dentist. He died on September 12, 2005. Although he lived in New York at the time of his death, a probate estate was commenced in Rhode Island where he possessed property and where, over a decade earlier, he had executed his will. On December 8, 2005, the decedent’s brother (who happens to be an attorney), was appointed as Executor of the Estate of the decedent (“the Executor”) In late December 2005, he sent plaintiff care of her attorney, a “Notice of Commencement of Probate,” which set forth information regarding the decedent’s Rhode Island probate estate.

A New York Will Lawyer said that, plaintiff commenced this dental-malpractice action against the Executor in June 2006. In her Verified Complaint, she alleges that the decedent committed malpractice while rendering dental treatment between September 11, 2004, and February 15, 2005. The Executor’s Verified Answer (dated August 24, 2006), includes the affirmative defenses of failure to “timely file a claim against decedent’s estate” pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws §§ 33-11-4, 5, 9 and “insufficient service of process.”

A Nassau County Probate Lawyer said that, pursuant to CPLR 3211, defendant Executor of the Estate of the decedent moves to dismiss this dental malpractice action commenced by plaintiff, arguing that plaintiff failed to comply with Rhode Island’s non-claim statute and failed to properly serve him. Plaintiff opposes the motion and, as a precautionary matter, cross-moves for an extension of time to properly serve the Summons and Verified Complaint.

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In this proceeding the petitioner requests probate of a will executed in 1955 while the decedent was domiciled in New York County. A New York Probate Lawyer said that the petitioner is an appointed executor of a will which bequeaths the residuary estate to a New York charity. Decedent journeyed to Bavaria, West Germany in 1965 and executed a holographic will while still there in 1967; that will provides that it revokes all prior wills. She died, still in Germany, having neither home nor presence in New York from after departure in 1965 until her death in 1968.

A New York Will Lawyer said that Respondent cross-petitioner is the sole legatee under the later will, which was established in court proceedings in West Germany in 1972. Respondent cross-petitioner moved for summary judgment dismissing the petition and denying probate to the prior 1955 will. Respondent further petitions for ancillary letters c.t.a. on the basis of the 1967 will.

A Staten Island Probate Lawyer said that the court finds that judicial decrees, not administrative certificates, were rendered by courts of record in Germany in the establishment of the 1967 holographic will of the decedent. Furthermore, the ‘Certificate of Inheritance’ issued by the District Court in Germany constitutes a final decree and not merely an interlocutory determination. In addition a finding of German domicile was essential to the establishment of the 1967 will in Germany. On the basis of the recognized rules of comity, this court gives full recognition to the establishment of the 1967 will of the decedent in the German courts.

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According to a New York Estate Lawyer, this is a case about the estate of Bertha Weil Fitzgerald. Reports that reached his office said that the estate was left to a number of charitable institutions and couple of churches according to her will. These charities and churches are Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, including Manhattan and Staten Island, National Society for Prevention of Blindness, Inc., The Fresh Air Fund, First National City Bank as Committee of the Property of Paul S. Ames, Jr., Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Archbishopric of New York and for Terence Cardinal Cooke, The Salvation Army, Heart Fund, American Cancer Society Inc., and the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

According to the Will that was executed in 1970, all of these charities and churches shall receive each an amount of $50,000. The Fitzgerald Estate was valued at $2 million. The remainder of the estate shall be given to the Archbishopric of New York. However, Bertha Weil Fitzgerald had a 41 year old son who was, according to sources told a New York Probate attorney, legally entitled to the estate of his deceased mother. It was also said on the Will that Bertha did not intend to leave any amount r any part of her estate to her son, who was also invalid and incompetent. The son according to reports had been institutionalized since childhood and therefore was under no condition to care for himself much less to her mother’s estate. It was also noted that the grandmother, Bertha’s mother already left half a million dollars to her grandson when she passed away some years back.

This case was filed by the trust company of Bertha’s son claiming that the son, under their representation did not receive any notice about the Will of Bertha. They claim that the son was not able to file an objection to his mother’s last will and testament and that it was right to do so. It was also noted that by law an incompetent spouse or in this case a son can file for an objection if he or she was left with a sum leas than or not equal to the sum that were left to other beneficiaries in this churches and charitable institutions. It is also what is known as a case of excessive or too much charity.

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With an Estate amounting to almost two million dollars, E. Louise Grupp died in September 25, 1992. The will that was given for probate was only dated two weeks before Mr. Grupp died. The will was dated September 11, 1992. The executors who wear named in the will were Joan E. Maloney, Esq., and Eleanor G. Dunn. There was an older will filed with the court that was dated July 9, 1992. Interested parties had examined the witnesses to the will.

The will dated September 11, 1992 sets up the $300,000 trust for Ms. Nitterauer and places another $150,000 in trust for her sons. Aside from that she gets personal effects and the testator’s house. From what a New York Estate Lawyer gathered, the remaining part of the estate of the deceased goes to the Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company as trustee for the Buffalo Foundation to be held as a perpetual charitable fund in memory of Mrs. Grupp and her late husband. Nine charities are assigned as income beneficiaries of fund assets in various percentages totaling 95% of net income, with the recipients of the remaining 5% to be selected by the Foundation. If the foundation fails to qualify as a charity or any of the other named organizations then the trustee will select from qualifying charities.

A terrorem clause was also in this will. That if anyone contests the probate or any part of the will, their interest will be forfeited, and it will be treated like that person died before the testator.

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