Surrogate Kristin Booth Glen
Decedent Pfeffer’s will was admitted to probate and his wife Steinberg was the sole beneficiary, except for specific bequests to his nephews. Pfeffer’s sister, Karp, and the nephews sought forfeiture of Steinberg’s share of the estate, arguing she was responsible for Pfeffer’s death. The petition was dismissed. They also sought imposition of a constructive trust on $5 million, and Steinberg moved for summary judgment. Karp alleged wrongful interference with the ability of Pfeffer to sign a new will allegedly drawn up by Karp’s husband, Jeffrey. Jeffrey claimed the new will substantially reduced Steinberg’s share of the estate, and left significant assets to Karp and her sons. The court noted, even if Jeffrey’s hearsay testimony was believed, it was a privileged communication that could not be revealed or used as evidence in the absence of a waiver by the client. As Jeffrey’s testimony was inadmissible, and the only evidence supporting Pfeffer’s alleged intent to change his will to benefit Karp, the necessary requirements for a claim for a constructive trust were not met. Also, there was no evidence Steinberg knew of the new will, thus, no evidence of any knowing interference to execute it. Thus, Steinberg’s motion was granted.