By Jason Stern
In the world of NY will contests the very first step on the long road to successfully prosecuting these matters is to establish standing. As a NY will contest lawyer with two decades of NY estate litigation experience I can tell you there is no shortage of bad wills out there worth contesting. But before someone can contest a NY will they deem fraudulent or the product of undue influence they must first establish standing. There are two classes of individuals who can bring a NY will contest to bear. The first group are people who may have been in the decedent’s prior will or wills and were later disinherited. These are individuals who would be adversely effected by the more recent instrument. Thus standing to contest the more recent will would be established should an original copy of the previous will come to light.
The other class of NY will contestants are next of kin who are also called heirs and distributees. Under SCPA §1410, any distributee (heir) of the testatrix whose interest is “adversely affected” by admission of the will to probate, may file objections to probate. In other words, if you are the decedent’s legal heir and you would receive less from their will than in its absence, you now have standing to contest the instrument. For instance, if someone dies with a will leaving behind a spouse and/or children, only the spouse and/or their children would have standing to contest the instrument. However, if a testator passes with no spouse, children or parents, then their siblings would be next in line and deemed to be distributees with standing to contest any instrument which attempts to disinherit them.
Estate of Andrea Greenberg
When Andrea Greenberg suddenly passed away in her home at age of 54 she left behind no spouse, children or parents. However, what was left behind were many unanswered questions. The first question was what killed this relatively healthy 54-year-old successful real estate consultant? While initially ruled cardiac arrest, her true cause of death was revealed several weeks later after a thorough autopsy was performed. Andrea Greenberg’s toxicology report stated “acute drug toxicity” from the lethal opioid Fentanyl as her official cause of death. This report bewildered Andrea’s sister Valerie Greenberg, as the successful real estate consultant was not a habitual drug user.
Things became stranger when Alejandro Aparecio, Andrea Greenberg’s “life partner” of ten years as he referred to himself, depicted above, appeared in court with an attorney drafted will. The will curiously enough named Alejandro Aparecio, Greenberg’s sole beneficiary and executor of her seven figure estate. Keeping in mind “life partner” is not an actual legal term.
Naturally, if the unexpected death of Andrea Greenberg was not bizarre enough, the production of this unusual will caused Andrea Greenberg’s sister Valerie some serious concern. As Andrea’s surviving sister and sole distributee, Valerie Greenberg hired a will contest lawyer to challenge the suspicious instrument. Through the will contest proceeding it was learned that Andrea was traveling in Orlando on business at the time her will was allegedly executed in Miami. As such, the will was shown to be a forgery and Valerie Greenberg was appointed administrator of her sister’s estate.
Once appointed, Valerie Greenberg learned that Aparecio had looted her sister’s estate of more than seven hundred thousand ($700,000.00) dollars in cash and jewelry. It was learned that in the hours and days after her death, Aparicio made several large cash withdrawals from Andrea Greenberg’s accounts. Currently Valerie Greenberg is now litigating her sister’s estate in an attempt to turnover and recover the money Aparicio misappropriated.
While the facts of Andrea Greenberg’s estate may be surprising to some, NY estate lawyers deal with such instances everyday. Surprisingly enough, law enforcement is slow to intervene in such circumstances, instead waiting for a judicial determination to be issued in the underlying estate. To date, no criminal charges have been brought against Andrea Greenberg’s “life partner” Alejandro Aparicio.
If you think a family member may have been taken advantage of by an opportunistic relative or friend it never hurts to ask the opinion of an experienced NY will contest lawyer to see if it amounts to undue influence or fraud. Feel free to call the NYC will contest lawyers at The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates for a free consultation at (718) 261-2444. Our NYC estate lawyers have more than 50 years of combined NY estate law experience drafting and probating the wills for families like yours in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Orange, Dutchess as well as in the State of New Jersey.