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In re Kohn

New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
39 N.Y.S.3d 825 (2016)


Facts

Daniel Kohn and Barbara Lutz (defendant) signed a prenuptial agreement. The agreement stated that upon Kohn’s death, Lutz was entitled to a payment of $3,500,000 (the payout) minus the amount of “any accounts that pass to [Lutz] by operation of law,” including certain Kohn-Lutz joint accounts. When Kohn died, the executor of his estate, Joel Hockett (plaintiff), filed a petition with the surrogate’s court, claiming that the payout should be reduced by the full value of the joint accounts. Hockett argued that as the joint account holder, Lutz was entitled to the full value of the joint accounts upon Kohn’s death. Lutz argued that, as a joint account holder, she took a one-half interest in the accounts immediately upon their opening. Thus, according to Lutz, when Kohn died, only Kohn’s half of the joint accounts passed to Lutz by operation of law. Hockett attempted to introduce extrinsic evidence of prior testimony of Lutz’s former attorney to prove Hockett’s case. The surrogate’s court barred the introduction of the evidence based on the parol evidence rule and found in favor of Lutz. Hockett appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning

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