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Court Decides Jurisdiction Issue of French Will


This case started in 1951 when one of the heirs of the decedent applied for ancillary letters of administration concerning holographic will that was said to be executed in France. In his petition, it was alleged that the decedent was a resident of France who died in the same country and left properties within the jurisdiction of the New York court. The petitioner also alleged that the will was made according to French law and that the same was recognized and established accordingly under the laws of that country. This claim of the applicant for estate administration of the decedent became an issue particularly with regards to the claim of domiciliary. The question was put forward by the New York state Tax Commission and by another party who in the end filed a motion to stop the proceedings of the court. This latter party had an interest in the case because according to him, the decedent owed him money for the legal services he rendered and which amount he wanted to recover from the property of the decedent. It is worth noting that this same party is the executor named by the decedent in a will and a codicil allegedly executed by the decedent in New York. Thus, it appears the decedent executed two wills and a codicil while he was living.

While the question of the real domicile of the decedent was still pending, the executor pushed through with the estate litigation of the will and a codicil executed by the decedent. The executor named in the will declared that the decedent was a resident of New York at the time of his death. According to a New York Probate Lawyer, the proponent of both the will and the codicil, who is also the executor designated in the will, argued that he was obligated to apply for the settlement of the properties of the decedent because he truly believed that the decedent was a domiciliary of New York and that if the decedent indeed transferred his domiciliary to France, that he has no sufficient information with regards to that and adding further that he was not given the opportunity to establish the veracity of the later will which was probated under French law.

The proponent with his lawyer went to France and there gathered information regarding the domicile of the decedent and also talked to witnesses relating to the will that was executed there. Nassau County Probate Lawyers said it was in France that the proponent was able to claim the money that he wanted to get from the probate proceeding in New York. When he returned to New York, he moved that the probate proceeding be discontinued claiming among others that based on his findings, there is very little chance of them succeeding in proving the New York residency of the decedent and as such, there is no more reason for the proceeding to push through. The proponent also asked the court that the services of his lawyers be paid including the one that he contracted in France.

The court in ruling upon the motion of the former proponent of will contest, declared that he is not entitled to any fees from the estate of the decedent. Queens Probate Lawyers said that the court argued that it is only authorized to grant payment for costs and expenses when a decree is made by the court based on the conflicts attendant to the proceedings of the will. It further stated that it was the decision of the proponent to go to France and nobody told him to spend a lot of money while being there just to find answers to questions that he had about the real domicile of the decedent. Finally, the court argued that it simply does not believe the expenses declared were incurred solely in relation to the estate of the decedent.

Surrogate Courts always encounter conflicts when it comes to the settlement of the properties of the decedent. In such a situation, it is important to be represented by an expert New York Probate Lawyer. Stephen Bilkins and Associates has members who are seasoned New York Estate Lawyers and they can provide the legal expertise that is needed by anybody who encounters a legal issue regarding wills and succession.

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