Good inheritance lawyer in NYC?
October 26, 2008 1:51 PM   Subscribe

My maternal great aunt's husband just died; this guy had been lying to my great aunt for years, claiming they were destitute and living off of her while squirreling away all his money. It looks like he's trying to leave everything to his son, and leave her cold; where can my mother find a good inheritance lawyer in New York City? Neither my mother nor her aunt is rich.

There are complications, of course:

- My great aunt had been showing signs of dementia for some time now, meaning my mother may have to assume power of attorney.

- *However*, my mother claims that her aunt has been much more lucid since the husband was hospitalized (prior to his death); my mother has suspicions that he had been drugging my great aunt based on this and items found in their home (her favorite wine being re-bottled by him, a jar with a funnel containing some of the wine, etc.). I'm not sure how you call the police on a dead guy based on stuff like this, unless his son was in-the-know.

Does my great aunt have a case here? We're talking around $500k, which is nothing to sneeze at, especially if my great aunt ends up needing a nursing home. I don't argue that her husband didn't have a right to leave *something* to his son, but leaving her with zip, while claiming all along that they were in the poor-house, is pretty cold.

What should my mother (who would be trying to help here) be doing? I'm assuming (as per the question) that it's "find a lawyer", but she doesn't even know where to start; she lives upstate about 90 minutes away, she doesn't have money to be throwing at this, and she doesn't know any lawyers in the NYC area.

NYC LegalFilter exocortical module: help? ^_^
posted by korpios to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Many states have some statutory provisions specifically prohibiting one from cutting one's spouse out of one's will. You need to get in touch with a licensed probate lawyer in New York.

A word of warning though: most lawyers didn't go to law school to do probate law, so the field is populated with more than its share of scumbags. If you see someone on a billboard, that's probably not the guy you want to go for. I'm not in a position to make any recommendations myself, but perhaps some kind soul in the hive will MeFi mail you with one.
posted by valkyryn at 1:56 PM on October 26, 2008

I can't speak to the particulars, but look in the yellow pages and call a handful of lawyers who advertise both "Probate" and "Free Consultation." You'll probably have to do it on a weekday. Until you get a plan together, this will let you get an idea of the level of optimism that jaded lawyers have toward the idea.
posted by rhizome at 2:01 PM on October 26, 2008

Go to, enter your city and state, select "wills and probate" from the drop down and check the "feature peer review rated" box. That'll get you 52 good attorneys to call.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 2:10 PM on October 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

My only advice is to avoid the yellow pages and instead try the New York State Bar Association's lawyer referral service.
posted by bizwank at 2:12 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

New York is not a community property state (which would guarantee her right of succession) but an equitable distribution state (which looks like the sort of stuff that makes lawyers rich). So, looks like this isn't a slam dunk where the judge would just tear up the will.

Definitely avoid the yellow pages and go with Martindale or the NYSBA.
posted by dw at 2:35 PM on October 26, 2008

posted by lockestockbarrel at 5:10 PM on October 26 [+] [!]

Yes, and look for one that is rated AV or BV with AV being better. A big firm lawyer is a safer bet, but they will cut into that $500k much more aggressively with their fees than an experienced trusts and estates attorney in a small firm. Another source of information for this type of lawyer would be the local probate courts, both the court clerks and the judges. They know who the good attorneys are. Ask for three or four names and interview them, and tell them about your limited budget (while $500k seems large to most of us, as estates go in this sort of litigation it is middle of the road, but you might find that it is actually larger once you start investigating).

Was it his money or theirs? He can only give away what is his. If it is jointly owned then there are limits. What are the state statutes and rules on this? These are things only an experienced and locally licensed attorney can answer properly. Lawyer up.

posted by caddis at 3:50 PM on October 26, 2008

NYS has a "right of survivorship" law, by which one automatically gains control of all assets of a marriage, immediately upon death of their spouse. It takes a LOT of work to get around this law. If the husband entered into a trust with the son to try and transfer the money to him, she can sue to get it back, but it's an uphill climb.

If she wants to lay claim to a bank account, for example, she only needs to provide a death certificate, and a copy of the marriage certificate to a bank officer. They can probably cut her a cashier's check the same day.

I second the NYSBA referral service. Also, try to find a personal recommendation for a lawyer from among friends who that lawyer actually did work for.
posted by Citrus at 9:51 AM on October 27, 2008

« Older Need Video Card for...Video!?   |   How do I deal with my roommate? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.