An American citizen domiciled in France died leaving behind bank accounts in New York worth less than $1,000.00, real properties worth a few hundred thousand dollars in France and almost a million dollars worth of money and personal property in Switzerland. At the time of his death he was married to a French national and they had one minor child. Prior to his death in 1972, the decedent executed a will sometime in 1970 in New York and this same will was presented for probate by two persons who were not main parties to the case. The New York will stated that half of the entire estate of the decedent must go to the wife and the other half should be held in trust in favour of the minor child. The will specifically directed that the same should be probated in New York.
It was also learned that aside from the will executed in New York, the decedent also executed a deed of donation which will specifically take effect upon his death. This deed of donation was executed in 1972, or 25 days before the death of the testator/Donor and in front of a notary public in France. The deed directed that all the estate of the testator be disposed and transferred in favour of the surviving spouse with a proviso that the minor child’s legitime be protected under French law. The deed of donation then is contrary to what the 1970 New York will provides.
Upon the death of the decedent, a proceeding was instituted in the court of New York for the disposition of the properties of the decedent according to the will executed in New York and at the same time a litigation is also pending and awaiting trial in France disputing the validity of the deed of donation. A New York Probate Lawyer said the proponents of the New York proceedings argued that the New York will should be given preference and that New York law should be applied in distributing the properties of the decedent. They also brought to the attention of the court that there was a pre-nuptial agreement between the spouses limiting the share of the wife to $10,000.00 in case of the husband’s death and that there was agreement between them that the laws of New York should be applied in the distribution of his estate.
The widow filed a motion to contest the proceedings in the New York court arguing that for the proper settlement of the estate administration of the decedent, it is more convenient for the French court to take cognizance of the same and not the New York court. The widow believed that the French court is more convenient and would be in a better position to rule on the case.
In ruling on the proceedings initiated and the motion filed by the widow, the court declared that under the circumstances, the French court is the proper forum to hear and try the estate litigation. Westchester County Probate Lawyers said the court stated that the validity of the New York will can be better determined by the French court and this is because there is already a trial about to be commenced in that jurisdiction. To court stressed that since a trial is about to start in France regarding the validity of the deed of donation, then the matter regarding the will contest or validity of the New York will must be submitted before the French court rather than commence a simultaneous proceeding in New York and France.
The court also elaborated that although the decedent is still an American and has not renounced citizenship, he nevertheless never maintained any residence in the country and that the only address that he has was the one that he used in opening an account with Chaste Manhattan Bank and which address is not actually in New York but in another county so therefore New York County has no jurisdiction to begin with but it should be with Queens County which was the address that he used with his Chaste Manhattan accounts. NY Probate Lawyers said in view of the foregoing, the court ruled in favour of the motion filed by the widow and the motion to dismiss the probate proceedings was granted.
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