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Stephenson v. Spiegle

New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division
58 A.3d 1228 (2013)


Facts

Jack Murray executed a will naming certain family members as beneficiaries. Attorney William Spiegle (defendant) assisted in drafting the will. Less than two months later, Murray opened a bank account and named Spiegle as the beneficiary in the event of Murray’s death. Spiegle was unaware of the opening of this account. Murray and Spiegle did not have a personal relationship outside of their attorney-client relationship. When Murray died, the account had a value of about one third of Murray’s estate. Dan Stephenson (plaintiff) was the executor of Murray’s estate. When Spiegle staked a claim to the funds in the bank account, Stephenson sued Spiegle. The trial court found that the only conceivable explanation of Murray’s designation of Spiegle as the account’s beneficiary was that he wished to put it in Spiegle’s hands so he could add it to Murray’s will. In effect, the court held that Murray made a mistake. Consequently, the court rescinded Murray’s appointment of Spiegle as the account’s beneficiary, and ordered the funds to be given to Murray’s estate. Spiegle appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Fisher, J.)

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