Photo of Jaclene D'Agostino

Estate litigators arguably see more probate contests than any other type of conflict. While the details are always unique, they almost always include allegations that someone unduly influenced the decedent to change his or her will to either disinherit, or favor, a particular person. These cases also often include an allegation — which is usually contested — that the purported influencer was in a “confidential relationship” with the decedent. The frequency of such claims beg the questions (1) what exactly is a “confidential relationship,” and (2) what is the practical benefit to an objectant in establishing that one existed? Jaclene D’Agostino addresses these questions in our latest entry.
Continue Reading

In Matter of Conklin, 2015 NY Slip Op 25094 (Sur Ct, Nassau County 2015), the Nassau County Surrogate’s Court addressed, among other things, whether specifically bequeathed property sold by an attorney-in-fact prior to the decedent’s death, adeemed. The decedent’s will had specifically devised the subject property to his two children and first wife, with a direction that it be sold after his death and the proceeds divided among the three of them. But a sale prior to death meant that the proceeds would become part of the decedent’s residuary estate, of which one of his attorneys-in-fact was the sole beneficiary. Jaclene D’Agostino discusses the case in our latest entry.
Continue Reading

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

In the recent case of Matter of Cheek, Surrogate Holzman of Bronx County addressed two issues that arise with some frequency in the context of Surrogate’s Court litigation – the validity of a decedent’s marriage, and a party’s attempt to vacate a stipulation of settlement. Jaclene D’Agostino discusses the decision in our latest entry.
Continue Reading

The American Rule provides that each party to a litigation generally remains responsible for his own legal expenses regardless of who prevails. In Matter of Lasdon, Surrogate Glen of New York County explained the few and narrow exceptions to that Rule, one of which pertains to cases of fiduciary misconduct. Jaclene D’Agostino discusses the decision in our latest entry.
Continue Reading