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New Jersey Siblings Battle Over Mother's Will in Court

Effective estate planning can save one's family from unnecessary conflict that can tear family members apart. A New Jersey case involving two siblings exemplifies the hardship that uncertainty regarding a loved one's estate can cause.

Brother and sister Peter Vicinio and Roseann Pakay's mother passed away in November 2007. The final details of her estate, unfortunately, were solidified only this week. What is unusual about this case is that their mother, Philomena Vicinio, did execute a will before her death. She worked with two attorneys in allocating where her assets would go, including her home and savings.

Mrs. Vicinio's will stated that each of her children, Peter and Roseann, should be treated equally in the division of her assets. That written wish, however, was complicated by her assigning her son as the executor of the will.

In 2008, Roseann Pakay took the case to court, accusing her brother of failing to follow their mother's written wishes and having unjustly influenced her legal actions before she died. Pakay sought for the title of executor to be stripped from Vicinio.

Vicinio was accused of influencing their mother's surprising decision to transfer her liquid assets into his name. She was spending a lot of time with her son before her death and dealing with Alzheimer's disease.

Pakay reports that her brother kept her from visiting their mother around that time, a detail that supports the theory that he then had too much influence on their mother. That fact, along with the status of Philomena's health at the time of the money transfer, led to a New Jersey judge's 2009 ruling in Pakay's favor.

The Court also saw the unfriendly relationship between the siblings, more specifically, the animosity Vicinio directed toward Pakay and used that observation to support their ruling to switch the executor of the will from Vicinio to Pakay and for all funds transferred to Vicinio to be divided equally among the siblings, whom the Court noted that their mother undoubtedly "loved equally."

The legal and family strife did not stop there, and Vicinio appealed that decision in front of the Superior Court of New Jersey this spring. He challenged the Court's previous judgment of his influence over his mother's financial and legal decisions and sought to be compensated for the work (and therefore increased property value) that he put into his mother's home.

On May 10, the Court ruled in agreement with the previous Court in regards to Vicinio's unethical influence over his mother at the end of her life and affirmed the previous ruling. The Court did compensate Vicinio for the work he put into his mother's home and the mileage he drove to travel there. The Court ruled against paying him what he thought he deserved for the increased value put into the house, being that there was never any agreement that stipulated such terms.  

Resource

In the Matter of the Estate of Vicino

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