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In re Estate of Butta

746 N.Y.S.2d 586 (2002)

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In re Estate of Butta

New York Surrogate Court

746 N.Y.S.2d 586 (2002)

Facts

After Helen Butta’s husband died, Butta’s great-nephew, Nicholas Pagani (plaintiff), helped Butta with minor chores and errands. Several years into this arrangement, Butta opened a joint bank account in her name and Pagani’s name and deposited $240,000 into the account. At that time, all the bank’s joint accounts had a right of survivorship. For the next three years, Pagani made withdrawals from the account for his personal use, and the bank sent Butta the statements and canceled checks showing this activity. Butta declared the joint account’s income on her personal taxes, but she never withdrew any money from the account. Butta created a new will shortly before her death that did not leave any of her $4 million estate to Pagani. After Butta’s death, the joint account contained approximately $150,000. Pagani petitioned to be declared the account’s sole owner. Butta’s estate (defendant) objected, arguing that the account was a convenience account belonging solely to Butta and that Pagani had exerted undue influence over Butta to gain access to the account.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Holzman, J.)

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