Appellate Division, Fourth Department
Probate — Fraud
Standing — Extraordinary Circumstances
Castor v. Pulaski, et al.
Appealed from Supreme Court, Onondaga County
Background: The plaintiff commenced a fraud action against the defendants in connection with the probate of a fraudulent will, purported to be the will of the plaintiff’s father. The decedent’s wife was convicted of the murder of the decedent. The defendants agreed, at the decedent’s wife’s request that they attest to witnessing the execution of the will six weeks after his death. The decedent’s wife received letters of administration and took as the sole beneficiary of the will. The defendants appealed from the dismissal of the complaint.
Ruling: The Appellate Division held that the plaintiff has no independent cause of action to maintain an action for recovery of the property of the estate, absent extraordinary circumstances. Extraordinary circumstances include collusion of the personal representative with others or an unreasonable refusal of the personal representative of the estate to commence an action.
Daniel Rose of Costello, Cooney & Fearon for the defendants-appellants; James A. Meggesto of Meggesto, Crossett & Valerino for the plaintiff-respondent