One of the most fundamental duties of a fiduciary is the duty of loyalty. That is, every fiduciary must administer the estate or trust subject to his or her stewardship solely in the interests of the beneficiaries. If a fiduciary engages in self-dealing, that duty is breached. In Matter of Smith, the Surrogate’s Court, Albany County, recently addressed the liability attendant to fiduciary self-dealing . Ilene Cooper discusses the decision in our latest post.
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Pursuant to the provisions of EPTL 5-1.1-A, every surviving spouse of a domiciliary decedent is entitled to a statutory right of election. While a surviving spouse may be disqualified from an elective share under any one of the circumstances enumerated in EPTL 5-1.2, the Surrogate’s and Appellate Courts have crafted a further ground for forfeiture when equity so requires. Such was the result in Matter of Berk, recently decided by the Surrogate’s Court, Kings County. Ilene Cooper discusses the decision in our latest entry.
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In late-August 2018, Governor Cuomo signed into law amendments to EPTL § 11-1.7 regarding exoneration clauses in lifetime trusts, drafted by Rob Harper and Ilene S. Cooper as members of the New York State Bar Association’s Trusts and Estates Law Section. Rob Harper discusses the amendments in our latest blog post.
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While most decisions rendered by the Surrogate’s Court result from an affirmative request for relief, occasionally the court will address an issue on its own motion when justice or the exercise of its inherent or statutory power requires. In our latest post, Ilene Cooper examines two recent opinions wherein the Surrogate’s Court again acted on its own initiative to achieve what it considered the proper result.
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Powers of attorney and trust instruments have each been the subject of many an estate plan. They each have also been the subject of multiple estate litigations. In combination, the two have served as fodder for controversies surrounding the agent’s authority over the trust and its terms. Two decisions — Matter of Goetz and Matter of Perosi v. LiGreci — have addressed the issue, albeit with different results. Both decisions provide valuable instruction for drafters and litigators. Ilene Cooper discusses these cases in our latest entry.
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In 2010, the Appellate Division, Second Department, made it clear in two decisions — Matter of Berk and Campbell v. Thomas — that principles of equity grounded in rules of forfeiture can adversely impact a surviving spouse’s entitlement to an elective share. The Second Department recently addressed the Berk matter again, specifically with respect to the issues to be determined and burdens of proof to be imposed at trial. Ilene Cooper discusses the decision in our latest entry.
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One of the most common objections in probate contests is the allegation that the propounded instrument was a product of undue influence. In our latest entry, Ilene Cooper reflects upon two decisions from 2011 in which the Surrogate’s Courts of New York and Kings Counties addressed such claims, which arose from contrasting fact patterns.
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