The testator, Harold Becker, executed a Last Will and Testament leaving his estate to his youngest son, Brandon (the child of the Mr. Becker’s second marriage), to the exclusion of his older sons, Scott and Stuart (the children of his first marriage). Mr. Becker’s will appointed his second wife (the couple were divorced but later.. read more →

The Appellate Division affirmed a summary judgment ruling by a trial court in a probate lawsuit involving disputed issues of material fact relating to alleged incapacity and undue influence. In the Matter of the Estate of Tornaben, New Jersey Superior Court, App. Div., Docket No. A-5181-14T4 (Sept. 27, 2016). The Essex County Surrogate admitted the.. read more →

When Helen Weste died in 2010, she was divorced with no children. In 1994, she had executed a will leaving her estate to charities and nieces and nephews. In 2001, Helen’s health began to fail. In April 2002, family members contacted her ex-husband (who was agent under her power of attorney), and he flew in.. read more →

The decedent, Keith R. O’Malley, was the father of two children from two different relationships. His minor son, E.L., resided with E.L.’s mother in New York, although O’Malley was a New Jersey resident. O’Malley, who was financially successful, died unexpectedly at the age of 36. In 2008, O’Malley and E.L.’s mother had entered into a.. read more →

In an appeal from a trial court’s decision to reduce the counsel fees sought by a litigant, the appellate division ruled that counsel fees, awarded to both proponent and contestant in a will dispute at the discretion of the trial court, are disturbed on appeal “only on the rarest of occasions.” In re Estate of Riordan,.. read more →

Linda Hall was the executrix of her mother’s estate. Hall had initially had a 2005 will admitted to probate. When Hall’s sister, Carol Polak-Reid (“Reid”) filed a complaint alleging that their mother had executed another will in 2011, Hall represented that she had attempted to have the 2011 will admitted, but the surrogate had rejected.. read more →

(The following excerpt is a portion of a brief prepared by my Law Firm in support of a successful application we filed in Court seeking an Order admitting a letter to probate as the decedent’s Last Will and Testament. The letter was handwritten by the decedent and altered with extensive cross-outs and additions,) The technical requirements.. read more →

A Pennsylvania appeals court held that beneficiaries omitted from trust have standing to sue the attorney who prepared the trust as third-party beneficiaries if they can show they were intended beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate. Agnew v. Ross (PA Superior Ct., No. 2195 EDA 2014, February 2, 2015) In 2003, Robert H. Agnew hired attorney Daniel.. read more →

As a general rule, an attorney hired to prepare a will or trust for a client is usually not liable to the beneficiaries of the will or trust because the beneficiaries are not clients of the attorney. But there are exceptions to the general rule. The general rule and its exceptions are demonstrated in two.. read more →

In Estate of William Strohmenger, 2013 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2651 (App. Div. Oct. 31, 2013), the decedent left a handwritten will leaving his estate to his minor son, in trust, and nothing to his estranged wife. After his sister sought to admit the holographic will to probate, the estranged wife filed a caveat objecting.. read more →

A New Jersey appeals court upheld a substantial fee award exceeding the amount in controversy for work preformed by law firm in a probate litigation when representing the estate of a man manipulated into modifying his will through undue influence because the wrongdoer’s actions contributed to, and greatly increased, the time and effort required to.. read more →

When our law office prepares a Last Will and Testament and other estate documents for a client, we usually conduct a signing ceremony and then give the client the original and one photocopy of the Will for their records. Other attorneys have similar procedures. On occasion, however, rather than provide clients with a photocopy of.. read more →

Video of Oral Argument before the New Jersey Supreme Court in Thomas Saccone v. Board of Trustees of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System held on February 4, 2014 in Trenton, NJ. Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq., legal counsel for Thomas Saccone, a retired Newark, NJ fireman with a severely disabled adult child who receives Medicaid.. read more →

Until recently, estate planners have typically created estate plans by using a number of sophisticated planning techniques. One common technique involved the creation of a testamentary credit shelter trust in the Last Will and Testament of the spouse who dies first. A credit shelter trust is a trust for the benefit of the spouse, or.. read more →

In a published opinion, the New Jersey Appellate Division took a further step away from requiring strict compliance with statutory formalities required for wills when it considered whether an unexecuted copy of a typed original will “sufficiently represents decedent’s final testamentary intent to be admitted into probate under N.J.S.A. 3B:3-3.” The court found that it.. read more →

Superior Court Judge Walter Koprowski, Jr. ruled on February 1, 2011 that handwritten notations on a hand-written letter constituted a valid will, although the letter itself did not. In Estate of Randall, the decedent’s cousin, plaintiff Charles Cameron, III, offered for probate two pages of a photocopied letter from 1998, with original marginal notations. The.. read more →

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D/NV) has introduced legislation designed to enact the tax cut compromise that was reached last week between President Obama and Senate Republicans. Entitled the “Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010,” the present bill is structured as an amendment to current law enacted in 2001 under.. read more →

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging was founded in 1998 to improve the quality of life of New Jersey’s older residents. The Foundation is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization that derives its financial support through contributions from private donors, public and private foundations and corporations. The mission of the Foundation is “to improve and expand new.. read more →

Most of the cases discussed on this blog (and, I suspect, on most blogs which spotlight developments in the law) focus principally on decisions issued by the higher-level courts, the appellate courts and the supreme court of the state.  However, the majority of court decisions in New Jersey and other states are issued by trial.. read more →

In the recent case of Rossius v. Krasheninnikoff, plaintiff filed a complaint in which she alleged undue influence by the defendant upon the decedent after she discovered that defendant had obtained letters testamentary from the Ocean County Surrogate’s Court by falsely claiming that he was kin to the decedent. After a three day trial, the.. read more →