My colleagues have written on the enforceability of in terrorem clauses, and the courts continue to confront challenges in reconciling the testator’s intent to impose an in terrorem condition with the rights of beneficiaries to challenge the conduct of their fiduciary. The New York County Surrogate’s Court’s recent decision in Matter of Merenstein provides further

It is easy to be cynical about the “pots and pans,” “tchotchkes,” and “junk” – – the property that is often divided in a contentious manner at the bitter end of an estate litigation, or sometimes forgotten after years of litigation. An ongoing dispute in one of my cases led me to reflect on a

In Gersh v. Nixon Peabody, LLP, the court addressed a legal malpractice claim brought by a decedent’s surviving spouse in connection with the couple’s estate planning. After settling a claim with the decedent’s children from a prior marriage that was made based on a separation agreement between the decedent and their mother, the surviving spouse alleged that the attorneys, who knew the decedent had been married twice before, failed to properly investigate his duties under separation agreements in the course of the representation. Frank Santoro discusses the case in our latest post.
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Very often, when the proponent of a will (and sometimes even the attorney-draftsperson or witness) is questioned about the decedent’s mental state and the decedent’s instructions, the reflexive response is that the decedent was “as sharp as a tack” and was “as clear as a bell.” But overselling a decedent’s capacity and clarity of communication using tired metaphors may result in the trier of fact becoming suspicious of the proponent, perhaps perceiving the proponent as dishonest where other evidence reveals that the decedent likely had diminished capacity. Frank Santoro discusses the issue of testamentary capacity in our latest entry.
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A recent case decided by the Richmond County Surrogate revisits the law pertaining to probating lost or damages wills. In Matter of Larsen, the decedent’s will, apparently damaged in a flooded basement to the extent that the signatures thereon were washed clean, was admitted to probate. Frank Santoro discusses the decision in our latest entry.
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A recent decision of the Richmond County Surrogate’s Court addressed a frequently litigated issue in Surrogate’s Court litigation – – whether the proposed or nominated fiduciary should be disqualified from serving in a fiduciary capacity on the grounds of “dishonesty” or “improvidence.” In the Estate of George Mathai a familiar dynamic was in play –

Administering the estate of a decedent who dies intestate is sometimes more complicated than one of a decedent who dies leaving a will. The distributees of an intestate decedent are often unknown, leading to citation by publication and a kinship hearing with respect to anyone who appears alleging to be an heir. Frank Santoro discusses these situations in our most recent entry.
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As recognized by Surrogate Glen in the recent decision of Matter of Rosasco, the distinction between undue influence and duress is often blurred in the context of contested probate proceedings. Frank Santoro explains the differences between the two legal concepts in our most recent entry.
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