In a decision that could well cause even the most casual trusts and estates practitioners to scratch their proverbial heads in wonder, the Appellate Division, Third Department, in Matter of Buchting, 111 AD3d 1114, 975 NYS2d 794 (3d Dept 2013), recently affirmed the determination of the Surrogate’s Court, Greene County, dismissing a “due execution” objection to probate, notwithstanding that both attesting witnesses invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refused to testify at their SCPA 1404 examination concerning the execution of the will. Eric Penzer discusses the decision in our latest entry.
Continue Reading “Easy” Cases Make Bad Law Too

Although summary judgment in a contested probate proceeding historically has been rare, the recent trend has been for Surrogate’s Courts to grant such relief with increasing frequency. Consistent with that recent trend, Surrogate’s Courts have granted summary judgment dismissing probate objections alleging that a testator lacked testamentary capacity, notwithstanding the testator’s diagnosis of dementia before executing the propounded will. Our latest entry, written by Robert M. Harper, discusses several cases in which a testator’s diagnosis of dementia prior to executing the propounded will was insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact to withstand summary judgment dismissing a capacity objection.
Continue Reading Testamentary Capacity, Summary Judgment and a Testator’s Diagnosis of Dementia

Eric Penzer recently discussed a case where constructive abandonment was asserted to disqualify a surviving spouse from an elective share. In our latest entry, Eric addresses a decision regarding actual abandonment as the basis for disqualification, and the hurdles that parties involved with such a claim may face.
Continue Reading Appellate Division: Issue of Fact Prevents Summary Disposition of Abandonment Allegations

It might well be an understatement to characterize New York’s Dead Man’s Statute (CPLR 4519) as somewhat “enigmatic,” at least to those practitioners who do not often encounter it. Indeed, the leading treatise on the statute is over three-quarters of a century old (see Greenfield on Testimony under Sec. 347 (CPA) § 61 [1923]).

This article contains a brief overview of the statute and more thorough discussion of its application to motions for summary judgment.

Generally — and perhaps overly simplistically — the Dead Man’s Statute renders an interested person incompetent to testify concerning a personal transaction (including a communication) with a deceased or mentally ill person. Such evidence is freely discoverable, however, and may be the subject of testimony at a deposition. Indeed, the rule applies only “upon the trial of an action or the hearing upon the merits of a special proceeding” (CPLR 4519).   

 

 


Continue Reading Inter Vivos Gifts, Summary Judgment, and the Dead Man’s Statute