Category Archives: Trusts & Estates

Attorney Loses Contact With Client Who May (Not) Be Deceased

May Court Entertain Application to Withdraw As Counsel?

Chernyy Law Office, P.C.  submitted a proposed order to show cause to bring on a motion for leave to withdraw as attorney for plaintiff, Rose Edwards. The affirmation in support of Borislav Chernyy, Esq., alleged that the underlying action was for money damages to compensate Edwards and others for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident on February 23, 2018. He alleged further:

6. The last time your affiant had contact with the Plaintiff, ROSE EDWARDS, was by telephone on July 19, 2021. Since July 2021, your affiant underwent multiple attempts to contact the Plaintiff, ROSE EDWARDS, but your affiant’s office has not been able to reach the Plaintiff. Upon information and belief your affiant was informed that Plaintiff, ROSE EDWARDS, passed away. Your affiant does not have any knowledge regarding Plaintiff’s, ROSE EDWARDS, date of death and place of death because said information was obtained from his friends. Your affiant’s investigator conducted an investigation in order to obtain Plaintiff’s, ROSE EDWARDS, death certificate or Plaintiff’s, ROSE EDWARDS, location of death but he has not been able to locate a death certificate and the location of death for Plaintiff, ROSE EDWARDS, or verify that in fact Plaintiff, ROSE EDWARDS, passed away.

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Heirs Sought Pre-Action Discovery From Gallery of Identity of Purchaser of Painting by Tiepolo

Court Determines If Claimants Were Entitled to Such Extraordinary Relief

Mordechai Avni, Oded Avni and Michaela Iro demanded that Sotheby’s return a painting by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. They claimed they were all lawful heirs of Dr. Otto and Lili Fröhlich, who owned the painting prior to World War II. The Avnis asserted that the Nazis stole the painting and they filed a petition  for pre-action discovery of the individual who acquired the painting from Sotheby’s after an auction. The Avnis contended that Sotheby’s was the last known possessor of the painting and that it was put up for sale at public auction in New York on May 22, 2019.  

The Avnis detailed that the Fröhlichs resided in Austria and ran an art gallery there before they were forced to flee in 1938 and left for London. They explained that, during the late 1930s, the Nazis forbade Jews from engaging in any business activities and forced them to sell assets, often at below-market prices for the benefit of non-Jewish sellers and buyers, as well as the Nazi government. In many of those deals, the Jewish owner received nothing.

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Building Doorman Sues Estate To Enforce Decedent’s “Promise”

Was Dismissal Warranted Based Upon the Statute of Frauds?

Jose  Padilla was employed as a doorman in a residential building where James Clayton Larmett (decedent) and his late wife Linda lived. Padilla alleged that he knew the couple for approximately twenty-eight years and became close with them through regularly assisting them with day-to-day affairs and caring for their pets. After Linda Larmett passed away in 2016, Padilla alleged that he cared for Larmett, would sleep over in his apartment, assist in finding appropriate aid to care for him, was designated as his health care proxy and was given a power of attorney to better help James with his needs.

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Elderly Aunt Changes Beneficiary of $6 Million Account

Did Favored Niece Exercise Undue Influence?

Paul Salitsky alleged in his complaint that, in December 2019, Karen D’Attanasio used undue influence or fraud to induce his elderly aunt to execute a form changing the designated beneficiary of a $6 million account from Salitsky to D’Attansio or that she forged his aunt’s signature on the form. The aunt passed away in January 2021. D’Attanasio moved to dismiss several of the claims asserted in the complaint. Supreme Court granted the motion. Salitsky appealed.

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Companion Sues Former Beau for Damages Arising Out of Long-Term Relationship

This was originally posted on the SGR Blog.

Court Decides Whether/ Which of a Dozen Claims Survives Motion to Dismiss

Andrea Coulter entered into an intimate relationship with Carl Sorenson, eighteen years her senior, in 2008 when she was 25 years old. Sorenson was a businessman who owned Nanz Custom Hardware, LLC., a substantial enterprise which manufactured and sold high-end custom-made metal hardware products used in the construction of residential and commercial properties. During the course of their decade-long relationship, Coulter and Sorenson lived together at more than one of Sorenson’s homes. At some point during the course of the relationship, Coulter started working, allegedly without compensation, for Sorenson both as his personal assistant and at Nanz.

In or about 2013, Coulter allegedly proposed that Sorensen utilize a Tribeca co-op apartment Sorenson owned through the Carl Sorenson IV Revocable Trust as a short-term rental space using the Airbnb platform, and claimed to have been responsible for fully managing the Airbnb initiative, including overseeing the apartment’s renovation and decoration, servicing the apartment, as well as managing the business’s account and the greeting of guests.

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Family Feud Over Painting by Jean-Michal Basquait:

This was originally posted on the SGR Blog.

Court Addresses Validity of Will Disposing of $30m+ Estate

On February 18, 2015, Dolores Ormandy Neumann fell in her home and broke her hip. Her neighbor contacted Dolores’ daughter, Belinda, who took her to the emergency room.

The following day, in the hospital before her hip surgery, Dolores executed a testamentary instrument, her penultimate will. The February 19th document was drafted and its execution overseen telephonically by an attorney in Florida, who worked for the Law Offices of Amy Holzman. Holzman, who worked and resided in New York State, was away on vacation and out of the country at the time. That instrument sought to disinherit Dolores’ spouse, Hubert, and after certain specific bequests, including her most significant asset, a painting by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, to Belinda, the February 19th instrument also gave Belinda the residuary estate.

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Niece Petitions to Probate Aunt’s Handwritten “Will” That Excluded Uncle:

This was originally posted on the SGR Blog.

Court Decides If Made in Hospital Holographic Will Was Valid

During the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Juanita Koutsakas was admitted to New York Presbyterian Queens Hospital on March 14, 2020 due to symptoms she was exhibiting from an ongoing battle with cancer. She died in the hospital eight days later on March 22, 2020 survived by her sole distributee spouse Steven.

Proffered for probate was an instrument purportedly handwritten by Juanita in the hospital on March 18, 2020 naming her niece Maria Koutsakos as sole beneficiary. The instrument was on a single piece of folded plain white paper and primarily consisted of one dispositive sentence, handwritten on the top in black ink, followed by the name of two banks, Juanita’s signature and the signature and acknowledgment of a notary public.

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Teenager Steals Car & Kills Woman in a Collision:

This was originally published on the SGR Blog.

Was Owner of Car Liable to the Estate ?

On November 23, 2015, Sharlene Stinson was killed in an automobile collision when her car was struck by a van stolen by a teenager. The van, which belonged to Blasco Beltran, was stolen from his driveway on November 14, 2015. The estate brought a wrongful death action against Beltran, as the owner of the vehicle.

Beltran moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. And submitted evidence that he reported the theft to the police on November 14, 2015. The incident report from that date indicated that Beltran told the officer he had left his vehicle unlocked in his driveway. And the report also stated that Beltran told the officer that he had lost one set of keys to the vehicle weeks before the theft, but he had the remaining key.

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Numerous Defects in Execution of Propounded Will:

This was originally published on the SGR Blog.

Would Court Grant Unopposed Petition to Probate?

Many of us have either signed or witnessed the signing of a will—and are familiar with some of the concomitant practices and procedures.  But the Estates Powers and Trust Law details the four requirements for the due execution and attestation of a will. What is a Surrogate to do if no one objects to the probate of a will even if that statutorily essential quartet is not meticulously satisfied?

In an uncontested proceeding for the probate of an instrument alleged to have been signed by Domenica L. Russo, the Court held a hearing to determine whether the execution of the proffered instrument met the formal requirements of EPTL 3-2.1.

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Prenup in Foreign Language Signed Abroad in Conformity with Local Law

This was originally posted on the SGR Blog.

Was Agreement Enforceable in New York If Not Executed Accordance with DRL?

A prenuptial agreement is often at the center of New York divorce litigation. But, as a recent case illustrates, the enforcement of a “prenup” becomes a complicated matter for adjudication by the Court where the agreement, in a foreign language, is duly signed abroad—but the execution does not comport with New York law.

Ali Oleiwi and Noor Salah Shiahi were married in Iraq and signed a mahr, a marriage deed, which mandated certain payments from the husband to his wife at the time of marriage and after that, if a divorce occurred. The mahr was executed, based on the evidence before the Court, under the marriage laws of Iraq. But after the husband commenced a divorce action in New York, the parties filed competing declaratory judgment actions. The wife sought to enforce the mahr. And the husband argued that it was not acknowledged in accordance with New York law and was unenforceable.

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