Trusts & Estates

NJ Considers Punitives in Will Contests

The New Jersey Supreme Court is considering whether a lawyer and his client should be required to pay punitive damages and attorney fees to the winning side in a will contest.

The will, signed by an elderly woman before surgery, made lawyer Ronald Casale the executor of her multimillion-dollar estate and Dr. Ronald Sollitto the beneficiary, the New Jersey Law Journal reports.

A judge refused to admit the will to probate, saying it appeared to be the result of “sharp dealing,” the newspaper reports. As a result, the money in the estate goes to a prior beneficiary, the Spring Lake First Aid Squad.

Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto questioned why rules regarding fee shifting and punitive damages should not apply in will contests.

Casale argued such liability would have a chilling effect on the practice of law. “I know a lot of practitioners who will stop doing wills and estates,” he said. “It will just be too risky.”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.