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Court Decides Jurisidiction Between Switzerland and U.S.


A Swiss national died on July 7, 1941. Prior to his death, he executed a will in New York purportedly to cover his personal properties in this State. The will was executed in 1934. When he died in 1941, the personal properties left by the testator were divided among his widow and three children. The petitioner in this case was not given any share because he was deemed by the testator as having been amply provided for. The estate in New York was divided in such a manner that ½ went to the widow and the other half went to the two children minus the said petitioner. This settlement was finalized in October 25, 1941

Apart from the 1934 will, the testator also executed a hand-written or holographic will which was executed on March 2, 1940. This later will disposed of the properties located in Switzerland, the domicile of the decedent and a decree was issued by the proper court of Switzerland while the New York proceedings was still on-going. A New York Probate Lawyer said he 1940 will did not make any mention of the earlier 1934 will nor was there any express or implied revocation of the same. The later will of 1940 disposed of all properties of the testator without making any reference to the personal properties located in New York because the will was silent on the issue of what securities were to be disposed and where such securities could be located. The only thrust of the 1940 will was to make a disposition of all the properties specifically found in Switzerland and there was no mention about the securities located in the state of New York nor was there any reference to the 1934 will. The said will also stated that all the testator’s securities must be given to the wife and all real properties located in Switzerland be sold and the proceeds must be divided between the widow and the three children which includes the petitioner. Since the estate taxes figured heavily in the picture, there was very little left for the heirs and the surviving spouse to divide. The petitioner in particular received very little amount when all the taxes were factored in the computation of the net estate.

The petitioner, one of the sons of the testator, went to the Court and asked for the issuance of ancillary letters testamentary and to ask the court to vacate an earlier decree excluding him from the partition of the personal properties in New York which was the subject of the 1934 will. He also argued that under Swiss laws, the effect of a succeeding will is to revoke all prior wills executed by the testator and that therefore the probate of the 1934 will was not in order because of the existence of a later will which was executed in 1940. Bronx Probate Lawyers said he claimed that if the 1940 will is to be given effect, he would not have ended up with practically nothing because though there were almost no securities left in Switzerland at the time of the death of his father, there were on the other hand enough securities that can be divided coming from the personal properties located in New York. To all of these arguments, the executor countered that the petitioner is already barred by means of estoppels from pursuing and contradicting the decree because sufficient time has already elapsed between the finality of the estate administration and consequent liquidation and the filing of the proceedings made by the petitioner.

The Court in deciding the case noted that the petitioner only instituted the proceedings after the probate court has made its decision and distributed the personal properties in the form of securities to the surviving spouse and the two children. No personal properties were left in the State of New York when the petitioner filed this case and he now wants the executor to pay from his own pocket what was supposed to be due to him as an heir.

Having studied the case thoroughly, the court ruled that the petitioner has no more remedy under New York law and that if at all, he should institute an action with the proper courts in Switzerland. The 1934 will was specific in stating that he is not covered by the distribution of the personal properties of the decedent and that the 1940 will did not in any manner revoke the earlier will of 1934. It is as if another will was made independent of the earlier will and specifically giving instructions with regards to personal properties found in New York. Brooklyn Probate Lawyers said there is then no conflict between the two wills.

The court also argued that the petitioner is already barred by laches and can no longer be allowed to pursue his claim involving estate litigation against the decree of the court and the administration as well as the division among the heirs made by the executor. The court argued that the petitioner was aware when the will contest of 1934 was submitted for determination to a New York Court and he did not assail the proceedings therein and because of this, the principle of laches is applied against him. The court in so ruling, refused to vacate the decree made by the probate court and the distribution of the properties made by the executor.

When it comes to the exigencies of court litigation involving wills and its probate, an expert New York Estate Lawyer must be hired by the concerned party. A New York Probate Lawyer is an expert in the field of both testate and intestate succession and they can provide the needed legal assistance to protect the legitime or other rights of an heir. Stephen Bilkins and associates is a law firm that handle legal issues involved in Probate proceedings and they are particularly adept in this field of legal discipline. They have helped many clients in the past and you could be the one who may need their services in the future.

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