On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County.
J.h. Coleman, Shebell and Arnold M. Stein. The opinion of the court was delivered by Arnold M. Stein, J.A.D.
Plaintiffs appeal the order granting summary judgment to defendants on all counts of the complaint. We reverse.
Plaintiffs are the Estate of Bertha Ahrens, who became incompetent, went to a nursing home in 1978 and died in May 1984; the estate of her stepson, Otto B. Ahrens, Jr., who died in October
1986; Marie Ahrens, who was Otto B.'s wife, sole beneficiary, and the executor of his estate; and Marie's daughters, Ingrid Cohen, individually and as executor of Bertha's estate, and Annelie Chandler, individually and as alternate executor of Otto B.'s estate. Defendants are Edgewater Colony, Inc., George Tilton, James Magee,*fn1 and other unnamed officers of Colony, the residential cooperative where Bertha lived with her husband, Otto B. Ahrens, Sr.; Ella Zahler, who received the one share of Colony stock that Bertha owned after Otto, Sr.'s death and during her continuing incompetence until her death; and Susan Huff, who bought the certificate from Zahler in November 1984.
Bertha and Otto, Sr., were residents of the Colony, a residential cooperative of one-family homes in Edgewater, in which they owned one share of stock, certificate # 197, as joint tenants. The stock entitled them to a proprietary lease on their house at 9 Shore Road.
In 1978, Bertha became incompetent and entered a nursing home. In 1979, Ella Zahler moved in with Otto, Sr. Plaintiffs allege that Otto, Sr., arranged to bequeath his interest in the stock to Zahler because she promised to bequeath it to Otto B. or his heirs. On December 6, 1979, Colony redeemed certificate # 197 and issued certificate # 398, in Otto, Sr.'s name alone. It also reissued the lease in his name alone. For the purposes of their summary judgment motion below, defendants stipulated that this reissuance of the stock and the lease and all subsequent reissuances were conversions.
Otto, Sr., died in 1980. His will was admitted to probate in August 1980, and the stock passed to Zahler under his will. In October 1981, Otto B. and Marie Ahrens moved to have the judgment of probate set aside, but their petition was dismissed as untimely. We affirmed the dismissal in January 1982.
In September 1982, Colony entered into a proprietary lease with Zahler for the residence at 9 Shore Road. In October 1982, it redeemed Otto, Sr.'s certificate # 398 and issued certificate # 434, in Zahler's name alone.
Bertha died in May 1984 without having regained competence. During her incompetence, no one had legal authority to handle her affairs or dispose of her property. The will that she had made in 1977 left the Colony stock to Otto B. in the event that Otto, Sr., predeceased her.
In November 1984, Zahler sold her interest in the stock and the lease to Huff, a New York resident. Colony accordingly entered ...