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In re Ferrara
New York Court of Appeals
852 N.E.2d 138 (2006)
George Ferrara’s only relatives were his brother, his sister, and his siblings’ children. George executed a will specifically disinheriting his family members and giving his entire estate to the Salvation Army (plaintiff). A few months later, George was hospitalized, and his nephew, Dominick Ferrara (defendant), went to visit George. Dominick claimed that George said that he wanted Dominick to have George’s entire estate to use as Dominick pleased. Dominick responded by obtaining a power-of-attorney form that authorized the attorney-in-fact, i.e., the person authorized to exercise the principal’s powers, to give gifts up to $10,000. A typewritten page was added to the standard form giving the attorney-in-fact the authority to give unlimited gifts from George’s assets to Dominick or Dominick’s father (George’s brother). George initialed and signed the entire form in the presence of a notary who knew Dominick. The notary testified that Dominick explained the form to George, but the notary could not specifically recall Dominick’s explaining anything about gifts. Dominick proceeded to gift George’s entire $820,000 estate to himself. Three weeks after signing the power of attorney, George died. The Salvation Army sued Dominick, arguing that Dominick’s gifts to himself were invalid and that the allegedly gifted property belonged to George’s estate (and, therefore, the Salvation Army as the sole beneficiary of that estate). The case was appealed to the New York Court of Appeals.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Read, J.)
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