May, Zawideh and Nahhat obtain $1.9 million settlement in probate matter.
Alan A. May, Robert S. Zawideh and Edward M. Nahhat represented the son and daughter of a man who had a number of estate plans prepared for him over the years. All of those plans, with the exception of the last one, provided for his children on his death. The last one, written in 2007, at a time when the father was arguably incapacitated and subject to undue influence, disinherited his two children and left everything to his wife, who was the stepmother of the two children. In the course of pre-suit discussions with counsel for the Stepmother, a number of irregularities occurred relative to the trust document that was allegedly signed by the decedent. First, the Trust document produced by the Stepmother’s counsel did not provide for a Trustee. When this was brought to the attention of counsel, a “missing” page identifying the Stepmother as the Trustee was produced. Second, the Trust document which allegedly disinherited the children and left everything to the Stepmother, provided that the children were to be “trust protectors” of the Trust that disinherited them. Lastly, after negotiations failed and a Petition was filed in Court to enforce the father’s 1997 trust – because the 2007 trust was unfunded and failed to amend the 1997 trust – the Stepmother’s counsel suddenly produced another “missing” page: one that allegedly “amended” the 1997 trust, which would arguably resolve the issue of non-funding.
Following the filing of additional petitions and raising the issue of spoliation of evidence and fraudulently amending the trust documents, and after a full day of facilitation, the parties agreed to settle their claims in exchange for a payment of $1.9 million dollars – an amount representing approximately half the value of the father’s trust estate, and which was consistent with his wishes set forth in his 1997 trust.
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