Often, controversies in families arise as to gifts allegedly made by a decedent during his or her lifetime. Such controversies frequently result in a property turnover proceeding in the Surrogate's Court to deal with such alleged gifts. Here, McCarthy Fingar lawyers, Gail M. Boggio and Michelle L. Santoro, successfully opposed a summary judgment motion that sought dismissal of a property turnover proceeding brought by our client as Temporary Administrator of the decedent’s Estate and Co-Trustee of the decedent’s irrevocable trust. The turnover proceeding demanded that the Estate's Executor/Co-Trustee, who was also an estate and trust beneficiary, turn over property belonging to the estate and trust. In addition to summary judgment, the Executor/Co-Trustee also sought to have our client’s interest in the decedent’s trust forfeited due to a claimed violation of its “no contest” clause, and to have our client personally pay the executor’s legal fees. The court denied the motion in its entirety because the Executor/Co-Trustee failed to meet her burden that she was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law and that issues of fact exist that would preclude summary judgment. In a related matter, the court similarly denied the movant’s (the Executor/Co-Trustee) request to vacate a temporary restraining order whereby the movant is precluded from utilizing funds and encumbering property whose sources are from the purported gift, requesting that our client post an undertaking and sought to surcharge our client.
Matter of Sasso, unpublished decision of Westchester County Surrogate’s Court dtd. July 25, 2011 (File No. 2000-1938/E)
Litigation sometimes takes place when agreements are signed by clients and issues exist as to the enforceability and validity of such agreements. Here, Katherine Sohr Jedlicka and Gail M. Boggio successfully opposed a motion by the former attorney for an estate fiduciary and a cross motion by the estate fiduciary seeking, among other things, to dismiss objections to the fiduciary’s judicial accounting based on a Release and Discharge agreement signed by McCarthy Fingar's client, who was not represented by a lawyer at the time the agreement was signed. The Surrogate's Court denied the motions and set aside the agreement. The court ruled the movants had not proven that the objectant was given a copy of the fiduciary’s informal account on which the agreement was based, and that she was not given a sufficient amount of time to review the same. The court also denied the motion to dismiss on an alleged violation of the statute of limitations, finding the fiduciary had not openly repudiated her fiduciary duties.
In will & trust contests, success or failure in a case often depends upon the facts uncovered through pre-trial discovery. Here, Katherine Sohr Jedlicka and Gail M. Boggio successfully opposed a dismissal of their client’s objections that were made to the probate of the decedent’s purported Will on the grounds of lack of due execution, undue influence, and fraud. The Court denied the other side's motion for summary judgment, since the motion was made even before the completion of court-ordered discovery.
Matter of Zacharakis (Surr. Ct., Rockland County 3-12-2009)
Business and real estate assets are often a source of controversy in estates and trusts. Here, control of shopping centers in Rockland County was in controversy. The fiduciary of the estate had maintained legal control and management of the corporations that owned the shopping centers by voting the estate's shares in the corporations to continue that control. Representing a beneficiary desiring to end the fiduciary's control over such shopping centers, Frank W. Streng and Gail M. Boggio successfully moved in Surrogate's Court, Rockland County, to compel the distributions of shares of stock in the corporations in order to permit the majority of the beneficiaries (which included the firm's client) to control the management of the shopping centers.
Will and Trust Contests comes in different forms. Here, the Surrogate's Court faced the fairly novel issue of whether an attorney-in-fact could use the authority conferred on her in a power of attorney form to amend a trust created by another person to grant to herself a limited power of appointment over the trust remainder. Pursuant to the terms of the trust in question, the grantor reserved to himself the right to amend or revoke its terms during his lifetime. Representing a client that was adversely affected by the trust amendment, Gail M. Boggio and Robert M. Redis successfully argued that the attorney-in-fact had no authority to make the trust amendment and that the trust amendment was invalid. The Surrogate held, among other things, that although the terms of the subject trust gave the grantor himself the right to revoke the trust or amend its terms, it did not confer the same authority upon the grantor's agent or upon any other person.