Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NY Estate Issue

A New York Appeals court has ruled a Chinese teen with special needs, Emily Fuqui Svenningsen, is entitled to a portion of her first family's $250 million estate.  The girl was adopted by John and Christine Svenningsen of Westchester, N.Y. in 1996, and John Svenningsen died in May, 1997.  However, on May 6, 1996, the Svenningsens signed an agreement stating they would not transfer or have the girl readopted, and that she would be deemed "a biological child."  The agreement stated Emily had the right to inherit the estate of her adopted parents.  In December 2004, Christine Svenningsen voluntarily surrendered custody of Emily, and she was adopted by Marilyn Campbell, assistant executive director of the Devereux Glenholme School in Washington, Conn. (where Emily was surrendered), and her husband, Fred Cass.  A letter Campbell and Cass received by Ms. Svenningsen's lawyers stated Emily's trusts totaled $842,397, but upon learning the late Mr. Svenningsen's trusts totaled more than $250 million, they sued for a new accounting on Emily's behalf, but Christine argued Emily no longer had rights to the estate since she was readopted.  Westchester County Surrogates Court disagreed, and, despite an effort by Christine and her biological ruling to appeal that decision on February 6, 2013, the Appelate Division's Brooklyn-based Second Department ruled in Emily's favor.

Read more here.


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