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Court Reviews Alleged Fraudulent Acts by Fiduciaries


This is a case being heard in the Surrogate’s Court of Suffolk County. The case involves the will of Madeleine Daltrolff Corya, who is deceased. The case is an accounting proceeding where the co-petitioners, the attorney – draftsman and the Bankers Trust Company have requested that the court fix and determine the fee and disbursements of the attorney’s law firm in the amount of $250,000 and to fix and allow the combined commissions for the total amount of $1,634,230.40. The counsel has requested a hearing be held in respect to this application for fees and disbursements.

Case Background

The decedent passed away in April of 1987 and is survived by a grand nephew. The decedent bequeathed her entire estate, which amounted to approximately $46 million at the time she passed away, to two charitable organizations, the American Cancer Society and Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases of New York. Her attorney, John J. Barrett and the Bankers Trust Company of New York were named as executors of the will.

A New York Probate Lawyer said the decedent’s will was admitted for probate in June of 1987. Letters of testamentary were then issued to the co-fiduciaries. A decree stated that any legal fees or commissions could not be paid without further court order. This has been determined as necessary due to the alarming number of estates that involve attorney fiduciaries being abused.

Case Discussion

On the date of the hearing no one appeared to be in opposition of the relief that was requested by the petitioners. The Attorney General who was advised of the hearing chose not to participate in the matter. However, even though there are no objections to the relief being sought it is within the power of the court to supervise the charging of fees for legal services and to limit the compensation to an amount that is just and reasonable under the particular circumstances.

When reviewing the facts of the case the court finds that both fiduciaries in this case have committed fraudulent acts by pursuing the decedent while she was still alive in the hopes of being named as the executor of the estate. There are numerous letters from both the bank and the attorney that offer services and other things that may be construed as bribes.

Case Decision

In light of these facts the court must determine a fair amount for the services offered by the bank and the counsel. Westchester County Probate Lawyers said the original amount as requested is denied. After reviewing the necessary criteria in the case the court is fixing the amount to the sum of $75,000 for all of the services that have been rendered and to be rendered.

The request by the counsel to be reimbursed in the amount of $12,268.75 for accountants fees that the firm paid for is denied. The reason is that the counsel has failed to show that there were unusual circumstances that existed in the estate that required the expertise of an accountant.

The disbursement for travel in the amount of $994.31 by the counsel is denied as well. Suffolk County Probate Lawyers said the reason is that this expenditure should be constituted as office overhead in the matter.

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