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In re Probate of the Holographic Will of Murray

May 14, 2009

IN THE MATTER OF THE PROBATE OF THE HOLOGRAPHIC WILL OF ROBERT MURRAY, DECEASED.


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Somerset County, Docket 06-00541.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 9, 2009

Before Judges Carchman, R. B. Coleman and Simonelli.

Appellants Kathleen and Laraine Murray (the Murrays), and their father Joseph Murray, Sr. (Joseph)*fn1, contested the holographic will of the Murrays' brother, decedent Robert Murray (Robert). The Murrays appeal from the January 22, 2007 order and the February 25, 2008 judgment of the Chancery Division judge approving an accounting of the court-appointed temporary administratrix, a licensed New Jersey attorney. On appeal, the Murrays contend that the judge erroneously allowed the administratrix $31,362.78 in attorney's fees and costs for legal services she rendered to the estate and failed to make findings of fact and conclusions of law on their motion to cancel a contract for sale of Robert's condominium located at 32 Lindsey Court, Franklin Park (the condo). We affirm.

We briefly summarize the facts from the record. The condo was Robert's sole asset. He committed suicide there and his remains were not discovered for a considerable period of time. He was survived by Joseph and four siblings, the Murrays, Michele Mora (Mora) and Joseph Murray, Jr.*fn2

Prior to his death, Robert executed the holographic will leaving his estate to Mora with "nothing to be given to any other member of [his] family." On April 27, 2006, Mora filed a verified complaint for probate of the will. The Murrays contested the probate and sought Joseph's appointment as the estate's administrator. They were represented by Frank J. Nostrame, Esq. (Nostrame).

Judge Reed ordered discovery, including any handwriting and medical expert reports. He also appointed Marcia Polgar Zalewski, Esq. (Zalewski) as the estate's temporary administratrix and ordered her to immediately list the condo for sale with a multiple listing service broker and to pay the estate's debts from the sale proceeds. Robert had considerable debt at the time of his death because he

a. failed to report certain capital gains as well as failed to file income tax returns for several years;

b. had taken early withdrawals from his individual retirement accounts without having filed the appropriate returns and/or paid appropriate penalties;

c. failed to pay his condominium association dues, resulting in liens in excess of $11,000 being placed on his property by the condominium association;

d. was faced with a tax sale certificate, due to his unpaid real estate taxes, which had been sold and was accruing interest at 18 percent on a debt of approximately $19,000;

e. failed to pay municipal tax, sewer and water charges, resulting in liens ...


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