Category Archives: Trusts & Estates

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Navigating the “Bermuda Triangle” of Objections to Probate:

This was originally posted on the SGR Blog.

Court Considers the Trifecta of Standard Challenges

Objections “101″ to the probate of a will would introduce the three most common grounds: lack of due execution (the will was not properly signed); lack of testamentary capacity (the decedent did not know what s/he was doing); and undue influence (a trust or confidence was exploited), But, as a recent case illustrates, objections are easier said than done.

In a contested probate proceeding, Joy M. Hood moved for an order: granting summary judgment dismissing the objections of Joseph W. Peckelis and admitting the will of Albert J. Peckelis to probate. Joseph opposed the motion.

Continue reading

“Family Feud” Is Not Just a Primetime Realty TV Show: Conflicting Claims to Unit Ownership End Up in Court

This post was originally published on the SGR Blog.

By agreement, circumstance or inheritance, residential cooperative or condominium units often end up being owned by several family owners. A “happy family” can only be found on the menu of a Chinese restaurant. So, as two recent cases demonstrate, the family members sometimes end up in a so-called “partition” proceeding in which the Court must decide if the unit should be sold and the parties account for their claims to the proceeds of the sale.

Vernon A. Anthony and his brother, Robert S. Anthony, own condominium Unit 1 at 46 President Street in Brooklyn, as tenants in common. Needless to say, litigation ensued.

Continue reading

Navigating Legal GYMnastics

Nutritionists, physicians our spouses and significant others encourage us to exercise; however, as the cases below suggest, be careful when you go to the gym.

Gebbia v. Town Sports Intl., LLC., 2017 NY Slip Op 32117(U) (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. October 6, 2017)

Defendants moved for summary judgment in an action where plaintiff sued for personal injuries he sustained while he was exercising at a gym operated by Town Sports when the cable failed on a seated long-pull rowing machine, manufactured by Precor.

The Court summarized the applicable law:

Continue reading

Recent Applications of the Ancient Doctrine of “Constructive Trust” to Contemporary Legal Disputes

By Victor M. Metsch, Esq.

This article was originally published by Thomson Reuters.

The Legal Framework

“Constructive trust” was just one of many mind-numbing “ancient” remedies dissected in my first year of law school.  The applicability of such relief, at the time, seemed purely academic and clearly remote from the real world.  Given that introduction to the remedy, I am surprised how often the doctrine is invoked in connection with circumstances that our predecessors-in-law could never have foreseen. Continue reading