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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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.
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Many estate practitioners are familiar with contested matters in which a charity interested in the proceeding is cited, as is the Attorney General, and both the Attorney General and private counsel for the charity appear in the proceeding. In such cases, both the Attorney General and the charity’s counsel represent the charity. What happens, however, when the status and identity of the charitable beneficiary is less than certain? That was precisely the situation facing the New York County Surrogate’s Court in the probate contest involving the much-publicized estate of Huguette Clark. John Morken discusses this portion of the Clark case 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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In Matter of Smith, the nominated executor of an estate sought to dispense with the testimony of one of the attesting witnesses at the SCPA 1404 stage of a probate proceeding. The court denied the motion, explaining that the statutory requirements had not been satisfied. Jaclene D’Agostino discusses the decision in our latest blog entry.
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