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Court Looks at Stipulation of Settlement Agreement


The Facts of the Case:

A New York Probate Lawyer said on 24 September 2008, the decedent died a resident and domiciliary of Nassau County. In November 2008, “A” filed a petition seeking a decree awarding her letters of administration. In the proceeding, “A” identified herself as the decedent’s wife. Annexed to the petition was an affidavit of heirship by a certain person, who swore therein that the decedent was married to the petitioner at the time of his death, and that the decedent died without children and without a will. On 25 November 2008, a decree of administration was issued and letters of administration to “A”.

Thereafter, “B”, as the named executor and one of the decedent’s siblings, filed a petition for probate of an instrument (a will contest proceeding) propounded to be the decedent’s last will and testament and for the issuance of letters testamentary. The petition identifies “A” as the decedent’s spouse, but states that the decedent was separated from “A” at the time of the decedent’s death; that the decedent died leaving 10 siblings. “B” and one other sibling of the decedent also instituted a proceeding seeking an order revoking letters of administration issued to “A”, and compelling her to account.

Sometime in May 2009, “A” filed her objections to the probate of the propounded instrument and alleges that it is a forgery and was not duly executed. In June 2009, “B” filed an affirmation in opposition to “A”’s objections and argues that “A” does not have the standing to object to the probate of the propounded instrument because she gave up all such rights in Article IV, Mutual Release and Discharge of Claims in Estates, of the stipulation of settlement that “A” and the decedent entered into on 12 August 2008 while the divorce proceeding the decedent had initiated against “A” was pending; the wherefore clause of the petition for probate was amended by affidavit of “B” to request that “A” be disqualified because of a stipulation of settlement she and the decedent signed in the course of their then-pending divorce. The decedent died prior to the submission of a judgment of divorce to Supreme Court.

The Ruling of the Court:

Here, the court finds from the plain language contained in the stipulation of settlement executed by “A” and the decedent that it was an independent contract between them and was operative at the time of its execution. Its viability was not dependent upon a judgment of divorce and it did not abate upon the decedent’s death. Westchester County Probate Lawyers said this conclusion is further bolstered by the fact that the parties assumed certain obligations immediately upon executing the stipulation of settlement like when they agreed that upon execution of the stipulation of settlement, the wife shall immediately serve a counter-claim upon the husband, on the grounds of constructive abandonment, and the husband will not interpose a defense and will consent to the wife obtaining a final judgment of divorce as an uncontested matter; and when the terms and provisions of their agreement stated that it shall survive any judgment of divorce between them, and shall not merge therein, and shall remain fully enforceable as an independent contract between the parties. In other words, “A” explicitly relinquished her rights with respect to the decedent’s estate in the stipulation of settlement. Thus, Suffolk County Probate Lawyers said she lacks standing to object to the probate of the propounded instrument. Accordingly, “A”’s objections to probate are dismissed.

On the miscellaneous proceeding, “A”’s letters of administration are revoked and she is ordered to judicially settle her account as administrator while the other sibling’s claim for the decedent’s funeral can be made against the decedent’s estate.

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