Friday, June 29, 2012

When An Estate Attorney Dies

If one had practiced trust and estate law for over 50 years, you would think that his own estate would be in order when he passed away.

Not always, as shown by a decision issued today by the New Jersey Appellate Division.

The attorney died in 2009. He had no direct descendants. His late brother had three children.The attorney was close to only one of the three. He had expressed an intent over the years to leave his estate to that one nephew.

When he died, the favored nephew searched his office and home for a will. He found "clutter" and "a mess" in both places. He also found (at the home) a copy of an unexecuted document expressing testamentary intent in his favor. No executed original of that document or any other will has been found.

The favored nephew offered the document in probate. His siblings objected.

The court here found that the document expressed the deceased's intent and affirmed its admission into probate. The document had been prepared when the decedent was about to undergo life-threatening surgery.

A dissent would not admit it.

The court declined to impose any sanctions against the siblings for frivolous litigation. (Mike Frisch)

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