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In re Estate of Bryant

December 15, 2008

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF MARJORIE S. BRYANT.


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Burlington County, Docket No. 2006-0042.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued November 18, 2008

Before Judges Skillman and Grall.

This case involves a dispute over entitlement to the estate of Marjorie Bryant, which resulted in separate proceedings in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The decedent owned a home in Edgewater Park in Burlington County. In the spring of 2005, the decedent was injured in a fall, following which she moved into the home of plaintiff Joanna Poe, located in Willingboro in Burlington County.

In 1999, the decedent gave Poe a power of attorney over her accounts at the Willingboro branch of the defendant Wachovia Bank. The decedent also allegedly designated Poe as the pay-on-death beneficiary of at least one of those accounts.

On July 29, 2005, the decedent executed a will in New Jersey that named Poe as executrix and residuary beneficiary of her estate. This will specifically referred to Poe's designation as the pay-on-death beneficiary of the decedent's savings account at the Wachovia Bank.

Shortly after the execution of this will, Poe notified the decedent's relatives that the decedent had been diagnosed with bone cancer. Several of those relatives, including defendant Dawn Russ, who was a great-niece of the decedent, came to Poe's house on July 31, 2005, gathered the decedent's medications and purse, and brought her to Russ's house in Jacobus, York County, Pennsylvania.

Two days later, on August 2, 2005, the decedent executed a revocation of the power of attorney to Poe. That same day, the decedent executed a new general power of attorney and a specific power of attorney over her Wachovia account to Russ and her companion Lynette Mackey. In addition, the decedent at some point allegedly removed the payable-on-death designation of Poe for her Wachovia account.

On November 17, 2005, the decedent executed a will in Pennsylvania that named Russ as the executrix and beneficiary of one-half of her residuary estate. This will recited that the decedent resided in York County, Pennsylvania.

The decedent died of bone cancer in Pennsylvania on December 26, 2005 at the age of ninety-three.

In early January of 2006, Russ initiated steps to probate the Pennsylvania will, and on January 18, 2006, the Register of Wills, York County Pennsylvania, issued Russ a "short certificate" of letters testamentary. That same day, Russ used this document to go to the local Wachovia Bank in Pennsylvania and have the decedent's accounts disbursed to her as executrix of the estate.

Poe submitted an informal caveat to the Pennsylvania Register of Wills objecting to the probate of the decedent's Pennsylvania will. However, she never filed a formal caveat, and on ...


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