Photo of Eric Penzer

It might well be an understatement to characterize New York’s Dead Man’s Statute (CPLR 4519) as somewhat “enigmatic,” at least to those practitioners who do not often encounter it. Indeed, the leading treatise on the statute is over three-quarters of a century old (see Greenfield on Testimony under Sec. 347 (CPA) § 61 [1923]).

This article contains a brief overview of the statute and more thorough discussion of its application to motions for summary judgment.

Generally — and perhaps overly simplistically — the Dead Man’s Statute renders an interested person incompetent to testify concerning a personal transaction (including a communication) with a deceased or mentally ill person. Such evidence is freely discoverable, however, and may be the subject of testimony at a deposition. Indeed, the rule applies only “upon the trial of an action or the hearing upon the merits of a special proceeding” (CPLR 4519).   

 

 


Continue Reading Inter Vivos Gifts, Summary Judgment, and the Dead Man’s Statute

If you don’t like dog puns, you might want to stop reading now.

Hotelier and real estate magnate Leona Helmsley loved dogs and she made no bones about it. Leona Helmsley left $12 million in her will in trust for her dog, Trouble. And, although Surrogate Renee Roth reduced the trust to $2 million, that amount should still be sufficient for Trouble to live, well, a dog’s life for her remaining years. (After all, Trouble’s annual living expenses have been estimated at only $180,000.)

The amount of the Trouble Trust, however, pales in comparison to the full amount of the charitable trust Mrs. Helmsley created — valued at between $5 billion and $8 billion. In a two page “mission statement,” Mrs. Helmsley expressed her desire that the money be used for the care and welfare of dogs. (Actually, it has been reported that she initially stated that the money should go to poor people and dogs, but she later turned tail on poor people, dropping them from the list.)

 


Continue Reading Leona’s Wishes May be Thrown To The Dogs