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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With a specific statute mandating that pre-nuptial agreements must be acknowledged, and with a specific statutory form of acknowledgment, it is surprising that there has been so much litigation over missing or defective acknowledgements and whether they can be cured after the fact. The Second Department recently addressed this issue in Matter of Koegel. Jack Barnosky discusses the case 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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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.

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The Second Department has recently issued two decisions that expand the parameters of disqualification from entitlement to the spousal right of election. In Matter of Berk and Campbell v. Thomas, the Appellate Division addressed situations in which the statutory limitations on disqualification failed to render equitable results. Jaclene D’Agostino discusses the decisions in this week’s entry.
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