In re Wendel’s Will
New York County Surrogate’s Court
143 Misc. 480, 257 N.Y.S. 87 (1932)
Ella Wendel died in 1931 without a spouse or children and left a will directing most of her $40 million estate to charity. Her executor submitted the will to New York County probate court, served numerous named heirs with notice, and published general notice to unknown heirs and next of kin in the newspaper. Over 1,600 people (plaintiffs) filed claims alleging a relationship to Wendel that would give them an interest in her estate (defendant) and standing to contest her will. The closest named relative was Rosa Dew Stansbury, a second cousin who shared a great-grandfather in common with Wendel. Stansbury signed a waiver stating she did not object to the will. But other claimants contended they were closer relatives—first cousins sharing a grandparent in common with Wendel. Some with the last name Wendel claimed an interest without offering any proof of a familial relationship. The proponents of the will asked the court to issue a bill of particulars requiring each claimant to file a verified statement describing his or her degree of relationship to Wendel under New York law, naming connecting relatives and dates of birth or marriage. Both sides asked the court to also advise how it would resolve standing issues and the will’s validity. After reviewing suggestions filed by some 160 attorneys, the court issued its ruling.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Foley, J.)
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