Buttiglieri and Zawideh successfully defend son’s inheritance.
Joseph P. Buttiglieri and Robert S. Zawideh represented the son of a man whose last trust left everything to his son, to the exclusion of his two daughters. The decedent passed away in 2012. At the time of his death, he had three adult children, one son and two daughters. Months before his death, the decedent, in consultation with his lawyer, amended his trust and estate plan, leaving his entire estate to his son. Previously, the estate was divided equally between all the children.
One of the daughters was under a guardianship, and although married, the decedent acted as her Guardian and did not trust her husband. The decedent had an “okay” relationship with this daughter but did not want to leave her anything and was not interested in a special needs trust.
The other daughter had almost no interaction with the decedent (her father) for approximately the last year and a half of his life. The relationship between this daughter and the decedent had been strained and even hostile for several years. Shortly after the passing of her father, the estranged daughter filed a petition for probate claiming there was no will, and asked the Court to appoint herself personal representative of her late father’s estate. After she learned that her father in fact had both a will and a trust, the estranged daughter withdrew the first petition, and then filed new petitions challenging both the will and the trust on the bare allegation that the son unduly influenced his father.
Initially, the decedent’s probate and trust estates were before a probate judge who openly expressed her displeasure with the decedent’s estate plan despite the fact that the attorney who drafted the plan assured the judge that the estate plan reflected the decedent’s intentions, that he met with him alone, and that he wanted to disinherit his daughters despite the attorney’s advice to the contrary. After almost two years of litigation, Robert Zawideh moved for the judge’s disqualification from the case, based on numerous hearing transcripts in which the judge appeared to express bias against either his client, or the decedent’s estate plan. In response, the judge issued a written opinion which disagreed with everything Mr. Zawideh asserted, but which nonetheless granted the motion. Following reassignment to a new judge, Mr. Buttiglieri argued that the daughter had failed to raise any factual issue that should go before a jury. The judge agreed and granted Mr. Buttiglieri’s motion to dismiss the daughter’s challenge to her father’s estate.
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