In re Estate of Klausner, 2014 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1517 (App. Div. June 23, 2014) involved Gerald Klausner, who was appointed executor of his late uncle’s estate, and Gerald’s brother Ronald, who was one of the beneficiaries of the estate. Following his appointment as executor, Gerald discovered transactions that he believed demonstrated that Ronald had misappropriated certain of the uncle’s assets. Gerald confronted Ronald, and told him that it would constitute an offset against his inheritance. According to Gerald, Ronald made no protest. Ronald executed a release and refunding bond in 2005, which released Gerald from all claims as a result of Ronald receiving $75,000 (his full share of the estate). Almost five years later, Ronald filed a verified complaint seeing an accounting and his allegedly unpaid $75,000 share of the estate.

Gerald claimed the suit was barred by the doctrine of laches, which bars claims that could have been brought earlier, if the delay was not excusable and resulted in prejudice to the defending party. The court agreed that the doctrine of laches barred the claim, noting that the delay prejudiced Gerald, who had discarded estate documents on the belief that the estate was concluded, and who was now in failing health. Ronald appealed, arguing that the 6-year statute of limitations, rather than the doctrine of laches, applied to the case.

The Appellate Division affirmed the probate court dismissal, agreeing that the statute of limitations, which applies to “recovery upon a contractual claim or liability,” was inapplicable, and that the equitable doctrine of laches justified dismissal.

A copy of the decision is attached here – In re Estate of Klausner

For additional information concerning probate litigation and will contests, visit: