Cecilia Rynecki passed away in 2003, leaving behind a will that divided her estate equally between her three children, Michael, James, and Diane. In 2004, Diane produced a second will that left her the entirety of their mother’s estate.
Michael and James challenged the validity of the second will, alleging that it was a forgery and that their sister Diane had either forged it herself or was involved in the forgery.
The court heard testimony from several handwriting experts who analyzed the signatures on the second will and compared them to known samples of Cecilia’s handwriting. The experts testified that the signatures on the second will were not consistent with Cecilia’s genuine signatures, and that the will was likely a forgery.
In addition to the handwriting analysis, the court also heard testimony from witnesses who knew Cecilia and testified that she had expressed her desire to divide her estate equally between her three children. Michael and James presented evidence that Diane had a history of financial difficulties and that she stood to benefit significantly from the second will.
The court held that the second will, which left the entirety of Cecilia Rynecki’s estate to her daughter Diane, was a forgery and therefore invalid, upholding the validity of the first will which divided the estate equally between Cecilia’s three children.
The court found that the signatures on the second will were not consistent with Cecilia’s genuine signatures, and that the evidence presented by Michael and James supported their claim that their sister, Diane, had either forged the second will herself or was involved in the forgery. Based on this evidence, the court concluded that the second will was invalid and that Cecilia’s estate should be distributed in accordance with the terms of the first will.
Matter of Will of Rynecki highlights the importance of ensuring that a will is properly executed and validly executed. In this case, the handwriting experts played a crucial role in determining the validity of the will, highlighting the importance of obtaining expert testimony when challenging the validity of a will.
The court considered a number of factors when determining the validity of the will, including the consistency of the signatures, the decedent’s intentions, and the circumstances surrounding the production of the second will. The court ultimately found that the second will was a forgery, based on the evidence presented by Michael and James.
The case also underscores the importance of having an estate plan in place to avoid potential disputes among family members after a loved one passes away. In this case, the dispute between Michael, James, and Diane could have been avoided if Cecilia had clearly stated her intentions in a validly executed will. Instead, her estate was tied up in litigation for several years, causing unnecessary stress and expense for her family.
Will of Rynecki serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of proper estate planning and the potential consequences of failing to properly execute a will. When a will is challenged, it is important to have an experienced New York probate litigation lawyer who can help navigate the legal complexities of these cases. With the right legal guidance, families can avoid unnecessary disputes and ensure that their loved ones’ wishes are carried out according to their wishes. Note that this case only deal with the probate issues. In the case of a forged will, the state of New York may choose to pursue criminal charges in a separate proceeding.