For several decades our New Jersey attorneys have been assisting individuals in probate disputes and guardianship matters venued in the Superior Court of New Jersey.  In addition to serving Bergen County which is where our office is located, we handle probate litigation matters in Essex County, Hudson County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Somerset County, Passaic County, Sussex County, and Union County.

The types of cases our law firm has handled include defending fiduciaries in probate disputes, filing actions to compel fiduciaries to account for estate assets and to remove fiduciaries for negligence and mismanagement, litigation to recover estate assets such as foreclosure, and guardianship matters involving appoinments by the Superior Court of New Jersey.

Below are samples of some of the recent estate and guardianship matters that our attorneys have handled:

  • IMO Elaine J. Stich Trust, Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Bergen County, Docket No. P-290-23; IMO Melvin J. Stich Trust, Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Bergen County, Docket No. P-291-23

This was a dispute between three brothers over their parents' inter-vivos trusts professionally managed by Vanguard. The trusts were created by Florida attorneys and thus governed by Florida law.  The mother survived the father, and then passed away in 2022. We represented two brothers agains the third brother who had been appointed as the successor trustee of both trusts during their mother's lifetime. Following their mother's death, our clients contended that the the trustee was not forthcoming with information about the status of the trusts, failed to communicate with them, and inexplicably failed to distribute their vested shares of the trusts.

Our firm filed separate suits in the Bergen County Surrogate's Court. In his initial response to the lawsuits, the trustee argued that he was entitled to approximately $1 million dollars in trustee compensation, citing a Florida probate statute that applies to personal representatives of an estate, but does not apply to trustees. Incredibly, the trustee argued he was entitled to commissions over an 11-year period while the mother was alive and also serving as co-trustee. After retaining a Florida attorney as an expert witness, and securing valuable admissions at the trustee's deposition, the cases settled at mediation for a fraction of the initial commission demand.   

  • IMO Margaret Patricia Amato, Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Ocean County, Docket No. P-220136

We represented the Exectrix in a contested estate involving claims to disinherit her brother for misappropriating estate assets shortly before their mother's death. Our client contended that her brother misappropriated the proceeds from the sale of their mother's real estate in Lebanon under the false notion that it was repayment for a loan, and wired the proceeds to an account in Russia. At the time we filed the case, the brother, a suspended Lakewood chiropractor, was serving a 5-year felony prison sentence for tax evasion, foreign bank account reporting failure, and first-degree money laundering. As part of his plea agreement with the United States Attorney's Office, the brother agreed that his inheritance would be subject to the government's $524,000 restitution claim. 

We successfully persuaded the United States Attorney's Office to waive its claim against the brother's inheritance because the amount of the brother's misappropriation exceeded the amount of his inheritance, which would have been divided in equal 1/3 shares among three beneficiaries. In addition, the brother agreed to sign a consent judgment foregoing his claims against the estate, including waiving his inheritance, and approving our client's accounting and distribution of the estate assets. 

  • IMO Victoria Rullis, Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Essex County, Docket No. P-0306-2021

This was a case involving four brothers and a niece who were embroiled in a dispute over an inter-vivos trust established by the matriarch of the family, Victoria Rullis.  We successfully petitioned the probate court to remove the trustee who had unduly influenced and bullied his mother into appointing him as trustee, misappropriated trust assets, and was hell-bent on burning up the entire trust estate on frivolous litigation against his brother. With the assistance of a court-appointed administator, we negotiated a favorable settlement that caused the removed trustee to waive his entire inheritance, including a life estate in a single family residence located in Arizona. 

  • IMO Estate of Orison Luciano Ramirez, Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Hudson County, Docket No. P284880

Our firm was retained by three siblings to remove their brother as the administrator of their father's estate, to appoint a substitute administrator, and compel a sale of real estate in Jersey City, New Jersey. The case was filed on July 7, 2017. The Court ruled in our clients' favor, and the property is under contract to be sold.

  • IMO Estate of Kenneth Kanter, Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County, Chancery Div., Probate Part, Docket No. P-069-14

Our firm was retained by a client to contest his father’s purported Last Will & Testament and other property transfers that were effectuated by his father’s brother.  The contested Will -- which was executed on the Decedent’s death bed and prepared by his brother -- left the bulk of the Decedent’s multimillion dollar estate to the Decedent’s brother instead of our client.  The Decedent’s brother also prepared four quitclaim deeds that were purportedly executed by the Decedent on the same day the Will was signed, transferring valuable real estate from the Decedent to his brother. 

The central issues in the case were whether the Decedent lacked testamentary capacity to execute the death bed Will and quitclaim deeds, and (2) whether the Decedent was unduly influenced to execute these documents.   After a year of hotly contested litigation, we obtained a favorable settlement for our client a week before trial.  The Decedent’s brother later attempted to vacate the settlement and appealed the trial court’s decision to uphold the agreement to the New Jersey Appellate Division. The Appellate Division denied the appeal in favor of our client and affirmed the trial court’s decision.   

  • IMO Estate of Andrew B. Filip, Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County, Chancery Div., Probate Part, Docket No. P-382-15

In this case, we defended a client against claims brought by the Court appointed Administrator of her father’s estate, accusing her of converting personal property from her father prior to his death, including Certificates of Deposit that were jointly owned by our client and her father. Our client countersued the Administrator for reimbursement of expenses that she had advanced to the estate and for unjust enrichment.  Our firm was able to settle the case at mediation, enabling our client to avoid a potentially costly trial. 

  • IMO Estate Alice Weinstein, Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County, Chancery Div., Probate Part, Docket No. P-461-14

The firm’s associate, Eric Reiser, was appointed by the Court as counsel for an 80 year old woman who was allegedly incapacitated in an action filed by the Bergen County Board of Social Services.  As counsel for the ward, Mr. Reiser was tasked with performing an investigation of the claims and allegations asserted in the action, namely, whether the ward lacked required a legal guardian to take care of her financial and medical affairs and if the ward was being financially taken advantage of by certain individuals who appeared to be after her $1 million in assets.  Mr. Reiser’s investigation spanned over the course of several months and involved interviewing the ward and several other witnesses, reviewing various financial documents and addressing other legal issues that arose with regard to the ward’s health and finances.    

Because at the time there were no known family members of the ward, at Mr. Reiser’s recommendation, the Office of the Public Guardian was appointed as temporary guardian of the ward during the pendency of the case to ensure that she was properly taken care of given the serious questions regarding the ward’s mental faculties.   At the conclusion of his investigation, Mr. Reiser submitted a report to the Court agreeing with the assessment of the Doctor’s who had been retained by the Bergen County Board of Social Services that the ward was incompetent and unable to manage her own affairs, and recommended that Jewish Family Services of Bergen and North Hudson (“JFS”) be appointed as guardian of the ward. Mr. Reiser’s recommendation as initially contested by the ward’s financial planner who was seeking guardianship of the ward and the ward’s previously undisclosed daughter, who had been estranged from the ward for years. Ultimately, the Court agreed with Mr. Reiser’s recommendation after a hearing and JFS was appointed as guardian for the ward.  As a result of Mr. Reiser’s investigation and recommendation, the ward’s $1 million in assets were preserved and the ward is living comfortably under the guidance and care of JFS. 

  • IMO Estate Alice Weinstein, Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County, Chancery Div., Probate Part, Docket No. P-324-16

Our firm was retained to provide general counsel to a court appointed guardian and to file a Verified Complaint and Order to Show Cause authorizing the client to sell the ward’s personal residence pursuant to N.J.S.A. § 3B:12-49 and R. 4:94-2. Prior to commencing the action, the ward’s health had declined and she was moved into a nursing home for full time care. Our client determined that it was in the ward’s best interest for the ward’s home to be sold so that there was enough money to pay for the ward’s increased cost of health care.   As part of the application, we assisted the guardian in retaining a real estate broker and obtaining two appraisals from licensed appraisers to demonstrate the property’s value and justify the listing price.  The Court agreed with client’s recommendation and was permitted to sell the ward’s home. 

  • Charles Fekete v. Kenneth J. Fekete et al., Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County, Chancery Div., General Equity Part, Docket No. C-45-16

Eric Reiser was appointed by the Court to serve as guardian ad litem for a 94 year old woman suffering from advanced stage dementia/Alzheimer’s disease (“Ward”).  The Ward was also legally blind and wheel chair bound.  The Ward’s husband filed a lawsuit against their children seeking to avoid certain inter vivos asset transfers that the woman and her husband had made to their children in 2005 on the basis of undue influence.  The central issues in the case were whether the Ward should be joined as a party in the lawsuit and if the husband’s claims had any merit. Mr. Reiser conducted an investigation and submitted a report to the Court concluding that there (1) was no factual or legal basis to support the husband’s claims against the defendants, (2) the Ward’s financial and physical well-being would not be advanced by the Ward intervening in this case as a plaintiff, and (3) the husband’s complaint should be dismissed with prejudice.  Based on Mr. Reiser’s recommendation, the husband’s complaint was dismissed.  

  • IMO Guardianship of Alexander Scavone, Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County, Chancery Div., Probate Part, Docket No. P-4009-14

Our firm’s associate, Eric Reiser, was appointed as Guardian Ad Litem for a minor child in connection with his mother’s application for the release of her son’s personal injury settlement funds on deposit with the Surrogate’s Court to pay off a tax lien that was being foreclosed on her residence.  Based on Mr. Reiser’s recommendation to the Court, the mother’s application was granted on the condition that she (1) tender the balance due on the tax lien to the Surrogate’s Court prior to the Court release the settlement funds, and (2) that she execute a note and mortgage in favor of her son to secure her repayment of the settlement funds being withdrawn.  

  • IMO Estate of Marilyn Maier, Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County, Chancery Div., Probate Part, Docket No. P-412-16

Eric Reiser was appointed as guardian ad litem for minor children in a case involving a request by the children’s father to be appointed as the fiduciary of his deceased ex-wife’s estate when he would be ordinarily precluded from serving in such a capacity under N.J.S.A. 3B:3-14 and the terms of his and his wife’s divorce property settlement agreement (“PSA”).   In his report to the Court, Mr. Reiser submitted that a plain reading of N.J.S.A. 3B:3-14(a) granted the Court discretionary authority to relax the application of the statute notwithstanding the fact that ordering such relief would contravene the PSA. Based on his investigation, Mr. Reiser advised the Court that a strict application of N.J.S.A. 3B:3-14 and interpretation of the PSA would not serve the best interests of the minor children, nor respect Decedent’s probable intent that the testamentary trusts in her Will be administrated by an immediate family member.  Based on Mr. Reiser’s recommendation, the Court appointed the minor children’s father as Administrator of the Decedent’s estate.  

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