Murdered Businessman Leaves Widow, Seven Children And No Will

Today's Daily News reports that Menachem Stark, a Brooklyn businessman and landlord who was murdered in January died intestate. While it appears that his partners may contribute to cover his substantial debts in a bankruptcy proceeding, his failure to have a Will can only add to the financial distress of his widow and seven children. Even if the estate is able to weather the bankruptcy, intestacy will limit his widow to an ultimate recovery of half his estate with each of his children recovering one seventh of the other half at age eighteen, subject to the fees that will be generated by court-appointed lawyers who will be needed to serve as guardians ad litem of the children. The addage that "man plans and G*D laughs" takes on a new and bitter meaning in this case which can only serve as a warning to put one's financial house in order.

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Times Features Comprehensive Article on Trusts

The New York Times has published a rather comprehensive, if brief, overview of trusts. For those of you who find all of the acronyms we use to describe various trusts, this may prove to be very helpful.

your  lawblogger would add a little postscript to this article with regard to the issue of whether of not you are considering naming a bank as your trustee. First of all, this should not even be considered if your trust is not worth at least several million dollars. You should also consider that once you appoint a bank to serve as your trustee, this appointment will be more or less written in stone after you have passed away and the trust is established and funded. The problem is that we tend to select a bank based upon the quality of its trust department. The trust officer who has attracted you to the bank when your trust is drafted may well be long retired when the trust is funded. The quality of a trust department may decline as well so you will never be assured that your heirs will have the benefit of the counsel of the bank/trustee you select for them today. For a high net worth trust, best to spend time with your financial advisor and pick the trustee or trustees best suited for you in the long run.

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Public Administrator Sues Beth Israel Hospital For 100 Million Dollars On Behalf of Hugette Clark Estate

For some time we have been following the bizarre story of Hugette Clark, the reclusive mining heiress who died in 2011 at the age of 104. She had lived for years in Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan, running up hospital bills in the millions even though there was evidently nothing remarkably amiss with her health. During this time, hospital officials ingratiated themselves with her and received gifts in excess of 40 million dollars.

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Mother Denied Recovery Of Damages For Children She Killed

Newsday reports that Nassau County Surrogate Edward T  McCarty III has denied the application of Leatrice Brewer  for a share of damages recovered from the county for negligence of the Department of Social Services in failing to prevent her drowning her three young children.

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Children Of Former South Carolina Football Coach Sue His Estate For Ten Million Dollars

In what would seem to be a textbook case of undue influence, the children of the late Jim Carlen, former coach of the University of South Carolina football team who died at 79 have sued their father's estate after a 2010 will left everything to his second wife Meredith. The Charlotte Observer emphasizes that "everything" meant just that. Not a nickel to the coach's children or grandchildren. Not even a photograph or any of his sports memorabilia. They further charge that the latest will was written after their father suffered from "severe Alzheimer's and dementia" and was contrary to a long established scheme of gifts and prior wills favoring all of his children and grandchildren. Although the estate is purportedly worth ten million dollars, his widow has tried to characterize the estate as being worth considerably less.

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Appellate Court Vacates Default In Surrogate Matter

Today, the Second Department of the Appellate Division vacated a default in theMatter of  Skolnick, (2013 NY  Slip Op 05364) reversing the decision of the Surrogate's Court of Rockland County. In this action, the objectant Stacy Ross had unsuccessfully attempted to vacate a default in the lower court after the Petitioner had failed to serve her personally with a citation and then, after moving to have her served by certified and regular mail. The problem here that Ms. Ross had evidently been vacationing down the Jersey Shore and none of the citation-bearing mailings had reached her until she returned home to find that a default had been take against her and the Will of the decedent admitted to probate.

The court opined that "An elementary and fundamental requirement of due process in any proceeding which is accorded finality is notice reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections" . In making a determination as to whether notice is "reasonably calculated," the unique information about an intended recipient must be considered, "regardless of whether a statutory scheme is reasonably calculated to provide notice in the ordinary case" Here, given that the Surrogate's Court was aware that Ross and her family would be away from her home in Sloatsburg until sometime in late September 2008, and was vacationing in Long Beach Island during that time, and given that there was no indication that Ross's address in Long Beach Island was unavailable, in order for notice of the probate proceeding to be reasonably calculated to reach Ross, the Surrogate's Court should have at least directed that the supplemental citation be mailed to Ross's address in Long Beach Island, instead of solely directing that the supplemental citation be mailed to Ross's address in Sloatsburg.

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Court Rules Against Operation Of In Terrorem Clause

Nassau County Surrogate Edward W. McCarty III has ruled in the Matter of The Estate of Walsh   (2013 NY Slip Op 51060(U)) that an in terrorem clause in the decedent's Will was not violated when a beneficiary of the estate  opposed the executor's turnover petition seeking to recover the proceeds of a joint account which was in the name of her sister and the decedent and which the executor claimed was merely an account of convenience for the decedent. Upon her sister, Joan Tipping responding to claim the proceeds of the account as her own, the executor, Patricia Walsh attempted to invoke the Will's in terrorem clause  which provided that a legacy would be forfeited if the beneficiary filed a claim against the estate later determined to be invalid.

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Choosing Your Trustees--Don't Take Yes For An Answer

If you have minor children, your legal affairs are not in order without a Will with a minor's trust. Your lawblogger's first boss used to say that the cost of the sports car your child purchases at eighteen is directly proportional to the amount of his or her inheritance. Some lawyers --including yours truly-- will refuse to prepare a Will which omits a trust if minor children are involved. A trust is an absolutely necessary vehicle to manage your assets for the benefit of your children --- even after they turn eighteen. Kids who have lost their parents need expert guidance to handle substantial sums of money until they mature later in their twenties (my trusts run at least to the age of twenty five).

Don't think you will have enough to leave your kids to make a trust worthwhile? Just consider that the instrumentality of their orphaning is likely to be a catastrophic accident. Instant fortune even though you will not be here to enjoy it.

 

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Woman Who Drowned Her Three Children Seeks Part Of The Wrongful Death Damages

Newsday reports today that Leatrice Brewer, a Westbury NY woman found not guilty by reason of insanity of drowning her three children in a bathtub is now seeking part of the $350,000 recovered from Nassau County for the children's wrongful deaths. The fathers of the children had sued based upon their claims that the Department of Social Services was negligent in not doing more to save the children. Even though New York has a "slayer statute" which prevents a murderer from profiting from the fruits of his or her crime, Peter Kelly, Brewer's court-appointed attorney has pointed out that unless and until she is disqualified by the Surrogate's Court, she will be entitled to an intestate share of her children's wrongful death recovery. A hearing  to determine whether or not she can recover will be held on August 15.

It is significant , however, that the State of New York has a 1.2 million dollar lien against Brewer's possible recovery to defray the costs of her psychiatric treatment. If her recovery is not derailed by the Surrogate, the end result of this is that a substantial amount of the damages paid by one arm of government as compensation to bereaved family members will simply be scooped up by another arm of government to pay the killer's medical costs.

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Accusations Against Public Administrator As Sparks Continue To Fly In Hirschfeld Estate

Earlier, we reported that the daughter of multimillionaire Abe Hirschfeld  had accused her brother Ellie of grossly mistreating their father so that he could loot his estate. As reported in today's Daily News, Rachel Hirschfeld has now leveled serious accusations against the New York County Public Administrator that he had ignored her brother's allegedly improper actions which she claims has resulted in the loss of more than 300 million dollars to the estate. The matter is now before New York County Surrogate Nora Anderson and your lawblogger regards it as a virtual certainty that more weird details will follow.

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