Kemp Klein


Buttiglieri and Zawideh Successful in $4.2 Million Settlement Over Will Dispute

Kemp Klein Attorneys Joseph P. Buttiglieri and Robert S. Zawideh successfully represented the the plaintiffs in a case in which they were disinherited. This was a complex will contest involving a solitary man who died with no wife or children. The decedent never owned real estate, a car, a phone or a computer. He had no recent relationship with his two nieces, who were his only heirs.

When he died, his estate was worth approximately $21,000,000. Three years before he died, the decedent became a ward of the court. At the time, everyone, including decedent, believed he did not have a will. During the course of the guardianship and conservatorship, the decedent told a psychiatrist that he did not have or want a will and repeated this in two independent psychological exams. Before the wardship, he said as much to his financial advisors. Both psychologists reported that decedent had testamentary capacity. The conservator informed the court of his belief that there was no estate plan, and whoever was in charge would have to make sure the ward had one whether he wanted one or not.

The court appointed an attorney to assist the ward in preparing an estate plan. From 2018 to 2020, the court-appointed attorney drafted multiple wills, three of which were signed, all with varying dispositions of his property, and all of which expressly disinherited his heirs. One of the wills left two recently hired caregivers over $5 million each. The last will left his entire estate to several charities with which the decedent never had a relationship. After he died, the nieces objected to the probate of the last known, proffered will, arguing that he died intestate.

Thereafter, another charity came forward with a nonholographic unwitnessed document they claimed to be a will. Due to the numerous wills executed by the decedent, a significant concern was the issue of dependent relative revocation, which could have resulted in a separate jury trial over each individual will.

After hotly contested litigation, all the parties agreed to a 60/40 split of the estate, with the 40% group (who weren’t in the final will), arbitrating their claims to the balance of the 40%. After several days of arbitration, the 40% group asked the arbitrator to act as a mediator, at which point the case settled, with a substantial award for the disinherited nieces.

Joseph P. Buttiglieri
Robert S. Zawideh


In Re Vogt Revocable Trust