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In re Estate of Grant

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

May 28, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF LOUIS S. GRANT, SR., Deceased.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 14, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Hunterdon County, Docket No. 39487.

Arthur J. Russo argued the cause for appellant Louis S. Grant, Jr.

John G. Manfreda argued the cause for respondent Administrator C.T.A. (Gebhardt & Kiefer, attorneys; Mr. Manfreda and Susan M. Flynn, on the brief).

Carter, Van Rensselaer and Caldwell, attorneys for respondents Virginia Liotta and Nancy Grant (William J. Caldwell, on the brief).

Before Judges Reisner, Yannotti and Hoffman.

PER CURIAM

Louis S. Grant, Jr. (Junior) appeals from a January 24, 2012 order, approving the third and final informal accounting filed by John G. Manfreda, the court appointed administrator C.T.A. of the Estate of Louis S. Grant, Sr., deciding the amounts of estate taxes to be paid by each estate beneficiary, and awarding counsel fees. He also appeals from a March 5, 2012 order denying his motion for reconsideration. We affirm, substantially for the reasons stated by Judge Stephen B. Rubin in his written opinions issued on January 24, 2012 and March 5, 2012.[1]

I

This appeal is the most recent chapter in protracted litigation over the estate of Louis S. Grant, Sr. (Senior), who died in 2001. The history was described in some detail in two of our prior opinions, In re Estate of Grant, No. A-2014-04 (App. Div. May 3, 2007) (Grant I), and In re Estate of Grant, Nos. A-0078-09 and A-0079-09 (App. Div. Dec. 7, 2010) (Grant II).

As we described in Grant I, Senior operated a successful horse tack business, Roosevelt Sales Stables, with the help of his son Junior. In 1998, Senior made the last of a series of wills. Article Four of the will left the inventory of the business to Junior, as a specific bequest. Article Five provided that the estate taxes should be paid from the residuary estate and that the beneficiaries of any specific bequests should not be responsible for those payments. Article Six left the residuary estate to Senior's three children —— Junior, Nancy Grant (Nancy) and Virginia Liotta (Virginia) —— in equal shares.[2]

Despite the will's provisions, Junior ultimately received the vast majority of his father's assets. Originally, the tack business was unincorporated. But, in 1999, Senior sought to create a partnership that would hold the assets of the business. Senior wanted all of his children to participate in the partnership, but Nancy and Virginia never executed the assignments of limited partnership interest that were offered to them. Apparently, they refused to sign on the advice of Virginia's husband, who was an attorney. As a result, the partnership was created with only Senior and Junior as the partners. When the tack business inventory was liquidated, the proceeds (about $978, 000) were placed in the partnership, and at some point, the funds were transferred to Junior.

After Senior died, Junior sought to have the 1998 will admitted to probate. His sisters challenged the will as the product of alleged undue influence. They also filed a counterclaim contending that the $978, 000 was an estate asset over which Junior had improperly asserted control and arguing that he should return the money to the estate. In Grant I, we affirmed the trial court's decision, holding that the will was not the product of undue influence and ordering that the will be ...


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