Appeals Court Win by Asaad Siddiqi, Alicyn Craig in Estate Case
The appeals panel agreed with a Middlesex County trial court that the complaint against MARC’s clients was frivolous.
At issue was the will of Sebastian Benenati, who died on Aug. 9, 2014 at the age of 91. In September 2014, the Middlesex County surrogate admitted to probate Benenati’s last will and testament dated Feb. 3, 1986, and authorized his wife, Mary, to administer the estate.
Two of their three daughters, Marie A. Martini and Ann V. Benenati, sued in 2017, seeking to vacate the 2014 probate order.
MARC’s clients sent the petitioners a “safe harbor” letter in May 2017, saying the suit was meritless and procedurally barred. MARC’s clients also said the action to vacate the 1986 will was predicated on the validity of a 2013 will, which MARC’s clients alleged was obtained through fraudulent and dishonest conduct.
Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Arthur Bergman held that the petitioners were barred under Rule 4:85-1 because they did not contest the 1986 will in a timely fashion. In addition, the petitioners did not file the complaint within a reasonable time under the circumstances, and, as such, it was frivolous.
The appellate panel agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that the complaint against our clients was frivolous and affirmed the lower court’s award to our clients of attorneys’ fees and costs in defending against the frivolous matter. The court’s action was in light of our office’s notice to plaintiffs’ counsel, pursuant to N.J. Court Rule 1:4-8 and N.J.S.A. 2A: 15-59.1.
The appeals court found that “the record shows petitioners continued to pursue their untenable claims and declined the opportunity offered by respondents’ counsel in the safe harbor letter.” The appeals court decision is In the Matter of the Estate of Sebastian Benenati.