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New York Trusts & Estates Litigation

Tag Archives: Robert M. Harper

In Terrorem Provisions That Violate Public Policy

Posted in Construction of Wills and Trusts
In terrorem clauses generally provide that, where a beneficiary under a testamentary instrument unsuccessfully challenges the instrument’s validity, the beneficiary will forfeit any interests obtained under the instrument. Testators include in terrorem clauses in their wills in order to dissuade estate beneficiaries from taking action that is contrary to the testators’ wishes, as expressed in their testamentary instruments. While a paramount objective of the Surrogate’s Court is to act according to testators’ wishes, in terrorem clauses must be narrowly construed, and certain in terrorem provisions are violative of public policy. In our latest post, Rob Harper provides examples of in terrorem clauses that contravene public policy and, thus, are unenforceable under New York law.… Continue Reading

Testamentary Capacity, Summary Judgment and a Testator’s Diagnosis of Dementia

Posted in Probate
Although summary judgment in a contested probate proceeding historically has been rare, the recent trend has been for Surrogate’s Courts to grant such relief with increasing frequency. Consistent with that recent trend, Surrogate’s Courts have granted summary judgment dismissing probate objections alleging that a testator lacked testamentary capacity, notwithstanding the testator’s diagnosis of dementia before executing the propounded will. Our latest entry, written by Robert M. Harper, discusses several cases in which a testator’s diagnosis of dementia prior to executing the propounded will was insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact to withstand summary judgment dismissing a capacity objection.… Continue Reading

The Slayer Rule Revisited

Posted in Accounting
As I wrote in a prior post, dated February 25, 2011, concerning the Estate of Dianne Edwards, the “slayer rule” articulated by the Court of Appeals in Riggs v. Palmer provides that “[n]o one shall be permitted to profit by his own fraud, or to take advantage of his own wrong, or to found any… Continue Reading

More Tales from the Crypt: The Right of Sepulcher, Decedent’s Intent and Disposition of Human Remains

Posted in Construction of Wills and Trusts
In a prior post, Robert Harper explained the law on the disposition of human remains in New York. This week he follows up on that topic, discussing a recent Nassau County Supreme Court decision, Matter of Grace D. There, the court addressed a disagreement among the decedent's family members as to the disposition of her remains.… Continue Reading

The Slayer Rule

Posted in Probate
New York's "slayer rule" generally prohibits an individual from benefiting from his own wrongdoing. However, due to the unusual facts of a case that is developing in Suffolk County, a murderer may indirectly inherit his victim's estate through intestacy. Robert Harper discusses the situation in this week's entry.… Continue Reading

Triggering In Terrorem Clauses With Out-Of-State Will And Trust Contests

Posted in Trusts
Although void in some states, it is well settled that in terrorem or no contest clauses are enforceable under New York law. In a recent case, Surrogate Glen addressed the question of whether an in terrorem clause had been triggered by the petitioner contesting a New York instrument before a Florida court. This week's entry, written by Robert Harper, discusses the decision.… Continue Reading

Unsealing Adoption Records

Posted in Articles
Although adoption records generally remain sealed except for applications in connection with medical purposes, courts will occasionally allow such records to be unsealed for other reasons. This week's entry discusses one of the rare cases in which an application was granted absent any medical objective.… Continue Reading

Is Justice Delayed Justice Denied?

Posted in Probate
Recent developments in the Martin Tankleff murder case have captivated court observers in New York and attracted the attention of national news media outlets. For the most part, the observers have focused their attention on issues of criminal law, like newly-discovered evidence and the reliability of allegedly false confessions. Yet, the case also has potential… Continue Reading