Suppose that a loved one has been missing for years, for no reason at all, and without contacting family or accessing any of his or her assets.  Sadly, this scenario is one that many families have had to confront in New York State.  This blog post addresses the steps that a missing loved one’s family members may wish to take in order to have their absentee relative declared deceased and to gain access to that person’s assets.
Continue Reading My Relative Has Been Missing for Years. What Do I Need to Do to Have That Relative Declared Deceased?

Artificial Intelligence (“AI”)  made legal and mainstream news in 2023.  In a highly publicized and widely discussed case, Mata v. Avianca, Inc., the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York sanctioned attorneys for citing to non-existent, fake cases generated by Open AI’s ChatGPT.  Despite Mata’s stark warning to the bar, AI-generated fake caselaw continues to appear in litigation nationwide.  

In Matter of Samuel, the Kings County Surrogate’s Court confronted a lawyer’s careless use of AI in a contested probate proceeding.  The objectant’s counsel submitted “fake caselaw resulting from Artificial Intelligence hallucinations” in reply papers submitted on a summary judgment motion.  Five of the six cases cited in in the objectant’s reply papers were either erroneous or non-existent.  The court held that counsel violated the rule against “frivolous” litigation under 12 NYCRR 130-1.1 by making material misstatements to the Court concerning case law.

Surrogate Graham was careful to point out that AI is not, in and of itself, the problem.  While the court was “dubious” about attorneys using AI to prepare legal documents, it focused squarely on counsel’s failure to examine and scrutinize the ostensible authorities that AI cited in support of the objectant’s arguments.  The court found that counsel had sufficient time to review and analyze the AI generated reply papers and conduct a simple cite check on reliable legal search engines, which would have revealed AI’s reliance on non-existent, fake caselaw.  Counsel’s conduct, and not AI, was the real problem. Continue Reading Matter of Samuel – Artificial Intelligence Hallucinates and an Incapacitated Person Makes a Will

When a child is born to parents who are not married, the child often must satisfy the provisions of EPTL 4-1.2 to inherit from the estate of his or her father. However, the Appellate Division’s recent decision in Tiwary v. Tiwary has held that a child born of parents who are not married at the time of the child’s birth, but subsequently marry each other, generally need not satisfy the statute. Rob Harper discusses the decision in our latest post.
Continue Reading Non-Marital Child’s Legitimacy is Presumed for All Purposes of New York Law, Including Inheritance, When Parents Marry After the Child’s Birth

New York CPLR 3122(d) provides that the “reasonable production expenses” incurred by a non-party’s compliance with a subpoena shall be defrayed by the party issuing the subpoena. May a non-party’s counsel fees related to responding to a subpoena involving the production of electronically stored information be included as “reasonable production expenses”? The Queens County Surrogate’s Court recently answered this question in Matter of Khagan. Brian Corrigan discusses the decision in our latest post.
Continue Reading Nothing in Life (and Litigation) is Free: Surrogate’s Court Awards a Non-Party $40,000 in Counsel Fees for Complying with a Subpoena Requiring Production of ESI

A person who executes a valid agreement to make a testamentary disposition as to a specific item of property is precluded from making an alternative disposition, either during lifetime or upon death. In this blog post, Brian Corrigan discusses Schwartz v Bourque, 2017 NY Slip Op 31621(U) (Sur Ct, Nassau County June 14, 2017), a recent decision involving an agreement to make a testamentary disposition as to a specific parcel of real property, a later agreement between the same parties concerning that property (that was alleged to have superseded the earlier agreement), and a deed transferring that same property which was contrary to the terms of the earlier agreement, but not the later one. In vacating the deed, Surrogate Reilly engaged in a comprehensive analysis of the applicable rules of contract construction, agreements to make testamentary dispositions, the termination of joint tenancies, and the statutory and case law governing fraudulent conveyances.
Continue Reading Surrogate’s Court Sets Aside Fraudulent Conveyance Violative of Contract to Make a Testamentary Disposition

This month’s blog post will address a recent decision by the Appellate Division, First Department, entered in In re Perelman, that helps reiterate and define the parameters of discovery proceedings. The case is interesting not only for its facts and the issues they presented, but for its litigants: Ronald Perelman, of Revlon and corporate raider

New York’s “slayer rule” essentially provides that if an individual kills another person, he has automatically forfeited any interest he may have had in his victim’s estate. The rationale is simple – no one should financially benefit from his own crime. Applicability of the rule is generally straightforward, but in certain cases, the lines can become blurred — such as in Matter of Edwards, where the killer sought to inherit from his victim only indirectly, through the estate of the victim’s post-deceased daughter. Jaclene D’Agostino discusses the decision in our latest entry.

Continue Reading Appellate Division Upholds Equitable Extension of Slayer Rule

A donor writes in a pledge amount, signs the pledge card, hands it over to the charity, and is absolutely committed to that amount; end of story, right? Not necessarily. A recent case emanating from Kings County Surrogate’s Court, Matter of Issac Kramer, shows that certain charitable pledges may not be as binding as they appear on paper. Spencer Reames discusses the decision in our latest entry.
Continue Reading Charitable Pledges: Not Found Money, You Have to Earn Them