Today’s New York Law Journal reports a decision of Surrogate Glen in New York County who refused to grant an executor’s motion for summary judgment to dismiss the objections of the decedent’s mother. In the Estate of Jeffrey A. Katz 0468/2002, the decedent had committed suicide two and one half months after executing a will leaving an estate in excess of one million dollars to his accountant.
The will was duly executed (the decedent was actually an attorney and had drafted his own will), just three days after he had been released on bail after having been jailed for threatening his brother with violence for having obtained a mental hygiene warrant seeking his involuntary hospitalization for violent behavior. Subsequent to the making of the will, the decedent was hospitalized for a period of about two weeks. Two days before the will was executed, his psychiatrist characterized him as "delusional" and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
In filing her objections, decedent’s mother alleged, among other things, that he was in a compromised state and was relying exclusively on his executor, thereby giving the executor the opportunity to exert undue influence.
The court found that issues of fact existed which could not be decided by a motion for summary judgment. Considering the documented mental state of the decedent and his reliance upon his friend and executor, the court found that it was unable to determine whether or not the will should be admitted to probate without a trial. It was further noted that because Mr. Katz had drafted his own will, he was without the benefit of independent counseling from an attorney. Just to make the fact pattern a little bit more bizarre, even though the will was in proper form and duly executed, it seems that the two witnesses were the present and former girlfriends of the executor and sole beneficiary!