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Court Determines if Bequest to Lawyer is Allowable


An old bachelor in New York died. In his will, he named eleven cousins of his as his distributees. As he had no children of his own, he bequeathed his entire estate to his tax lawyer. The tax lawyer was a resident of New York but he had relocated to the state of Georgia.

Prior to leaving New York, he had been doing the taxes for the old bachelor and they had cultivated a friendship. This friendship lasted for forty years. Even when the tax lawyer was already living in Georgia, he still did the taxes for the New York bachelor and kept in touch with him.

The tax lawyer testified that his friend and client called him up in Georgia to inform him that he was leaving his entire estate to him. The tax lawyer then advised his friend to find a lawyer who will draft the will for him. The old New York bachelor found a lawyer in New York who drafted the will for him. This lawyer has also died. A New York Probate Lawyer reported that the tax lawyer testified that he did not recommend the lawyer to his friend and that he did not personally know the lawyer who drafted the will nor has he had professional dealings with the lawyer who drafted his friend’s will.

The tax lawyer also testified that he had no part in the preparation of the will; that he had no part in the execution of the will; and was not even present when it was executed by his friend.

The tax lawyer asks that the will of the New York bachelor be admitted to probate. Not one of the eleven cousins of the old New York bachelor objected to the probate. Some of these cousins cannot be located. The Surrogate’s Court had appointed a guardian for these distributees.

The guardian for the distributees who cannot yet be located is also a lawyer. He asks that he be awarded payment for his services as guardian. He interposed a claim for $4,000.00. A Staten Island Probate Lawyer said he claims that he gets paid an hourly rate of $250 and he has spent 16 hours in working on this case as guardian for the distributees whom he is still trying to locate.

The only questions before the Supreme Court are: whether or not the guardian should be paid for his services; and, whether or not the bequest of the entire estate of the New York bachelor to his tax lawyer is proper.

The Supreme Court ruled that when a beneficiary of a will is a lawyer of the testator, the lawyer must explain why and how the bequest was made to him. This will put to rest and question as to undue influence which may have been exerted by the lawyer. Bronx Probate Lawyers said the Court ruled that the lawyer-client relationship is a confidential relationship and the law demands that the lawyer explain why the bequest was made.

Since it is clear that the bequest was made by reason of the long friendship between the testator and the tax lawyer; and that the tax lawyer had no participation at all in the preparation of the will or its execution, then the bequest has been explained to the Court’s satisfaction.

As for the guardian’s claim for fees for its services, the Court finds that it is reasonable. There is no specific rule to calculate the compensation due to the lawyer, the circumstance of the case must be viewed. Since the estate is sizeable and the guardian’s claim is what most lawyers claim for this type of legal services, the Court found the guardian’s claims reasonable and ordered that he be paid the $4,000 he had claimed.

Even when there is no objection to the probate of a will, the person seeking the probate of the will must still present evidence on three matters: the due execution of the will in compliance with the legal requirements; the testamentary capacity of the testator at the time of the execution of the will; and the lack of undue influence or fraud in the execution of the will. A lawyer can present testimonial and documentary evidence on these matters. An attorney can show that the will should be admitted into probate and that the estate should be distributed in accordance with the wishes of the testator. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, our legal team available and willing to help present your evidence. They can argue in your behalf to make sure that the valid will can be probated. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates and schedule a free consultation today.

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