How to contest a will? Forgery; Estate of Andrea Greenberg
As a Queens estate lawyer contesting fraudulent, attorney drafted NY wills for more than two decades I can recite each of the grounds to contest a will in NY from memory. According to the SCPA of the NY estate law the grounds to contest a NY attorney drafted will are undue influence, fraud, due execution, testamentary capacity, revocation and forgery. Of these 6 grounds for a Queens estate lawyer to contest a NY will I can tell you from experience undue influence is the element most often utilized. Undue influence can often act as a catchall basis to contest a NY will encompassing elements of fraud, capacity, or lack thereof, and the execution itself.
When a Queens estate lawyer meets a potential client in a NY will contest for the first time, generally speaking, it is a very emotional time. The potential objectant may understandably feel anything from scorned anger, shock, disbelief and denial at the document offered for probate. During this initial consultation it is not uncommon for the potential objectant to allege that the document’s signature is not that of the decedent but is a forgery. As an experienced litigator of NY estates I am always surprised when the issue of forgery arises within a NY will contest. Personally, as a Queens estate lawyer, I believe it is grounded more in the potential objectant’s denial of the NY will’s existence disinheriting that individual than in the reality of the facts. I say this because any Queens estate lawyer should know that raising the objection of forgery in a NY will contest is thereby accusing several third parties, namely the attorney draftsman, witnesses and a notary of committing several felonies including but not limited to fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, perjury and larceny.
For any Queens estate lawyer to commit such reckless acts would be wanton and would almost certainly result in jail time or at the very least a suspension from the practice of law. Therefore, for the reasons stated above, forgery is a rarely utilized basis for NY will contests but that does not mean it does not occur. According to the NY estate law to prove the allegation of forgery in a NY will contest, the objectant must show clear and convincing evidence in the form of a handwriting analysis expert in support of their allegation of forgery, Estate of Daniel147, Misc. 541 (Surr. Crt. NY 1933). Additionally, the Queens estate lawyer in the NY will contest must come forward with evidence in admissible form as to the identity and motivation of any and all perpetrators. While not the easiest path to victory in a NY will contest if in fact the signature on the instrument is not that of the testator or it is proven impossible that the testator could even sign the paper, the allegation is not without merit. As such, forgery can be a valid weapon in the attack of a NY attorney drafted and supervised will.
Estate of Andrea Greenberg
When Andrea Greenberg suddenly passed away on October 10, 2017, in her home at the age of 54 she left behind no spouse, children or parents. However, what was left behind were many unanswered questions. The first question was what killed this relatively healthy 54-year-old successful real estate consultant? While initially ruled cardiac arrest, the true cause of Andrea’s death was revealed several weeks later after a thorough autopsy was performed. Andrea Greenberg’s toxicology report stated “acute drug toxicity” from the lethal opioid Fentanyl as her official cause of death. This report bewildered Andrea’s sister Valerie Greenberg, as the successful real estate consultant was not a habitual drug user.
Things became stranger when Alejandro Aparicio, Andrea Greenberg’s “life partner” of ten years as he referred to himself, depicted above, appeared in court with an attorney drafted will. The will curiously enough named Alejandro Aparicio, Greenberg’s sole beneficiary and executor of her seven figure estate. Keeping in mind “life partner” is not an actual legal term.
Naturally, if the unexpected death of Andrea Greenberg was not bizarre enough, the production of this unusual will caused Andrea Greenberg’s sister Valerie some serious concern. As Andrea’s surviving sister and sole distributee, Valerie Greenberg hired a will contest lawyer to challenge the suspicious instrument. Through the will contest proceeding it was learned that Andrea was traveling in Orlando on business at the time her will was allegedly executed in Miami. As such, the will was shown to be a forgery and Valerie Greenberg was appointed administrator of her sister’s estate.
Once appointed, Valerie Greenberg learned that within minutes of her sister’s 2017 death, Aparicio had looted much of her sister’s estate of more than seven hundred thousand ($700,000.00) dollars in cash and jewelry. It was also learned that in the hours and days after her death, Aparicio made several large cash withdrawals from Andrea Greenberg’s accounts.
Pursuant to Valerie Greenberg’s costly will contest litigation, Aparicio was finally arrested on February 8, 2019 for grand larceny, organized fraud and forgery. Having spent the majority of his allegedly stolen funds on estate litigation fees, by March of 2019, Aparicio was now destitute. Under investigation for several felonies, and possibly murder Aparicio found himself with few places left to turn. Feeling despondent, destitute and boxed in, Aparicio took his own life on March 17, 2019 by riding his BMW sport bike into a tractor trailer. At the time of his death, 59 year old Aparicio was facing 60 years behind bars not including any charges which could later be brought against Aparicio, in connection with Andrea Greenberg’s underlying murder.
In fact, Andrea’s sister Valerie Greenberg, a commercial litigator herself, sent Andrea’s Ipad to a forensic analysis firm which revealed Andrea’s Google search history for “poison symptoms” in the hours prior to her death. With only her boyfriend Aparicio in her home, the list of possible suspects in Andrea’s murder would eventually become razor thin. Considering the mounting evidence against Aparicio indicating theft, forgery and foul play, it is not surprising to a Queens estate lawyer that he would take his own life in the manner he did.
While the facts of Andrea Greenberg’s estate may be surprising to some, Queens estate lawyers deal with such instances of greed every day. Surprisingly enough, law enforcement are slow to intervene in such circumstances, instead waiting for a determination to be issued in the underlying estate before acting. Though Queens estate lawyers seldom encounter forgery in the sense of NY will contest litigation, that does not mean it does not occur.
If you think a family member may have been taken advantage of by an opportunistic relative or friend it never hurts to ask the opinion of an experienced NY will contest lawyer to see if it amounts to undue influence or fraud. Feel free to call the NYC will contest lawyers at The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates for a free consultation at (718) 261-2444. Our Queens estate lawyers have more than 50 years of combined NY estate law experience drafting and probating the wills for families like yours in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Orange, Dutchess as well as in the State of New Jersey.