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In re Estate of Strohmenger

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

October 31, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM STROHMENGER (DECEASED)

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 9, 2013.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Ocean County, Docket No. 182037.

Scott K. Seelagy, attorney for appellant Jean Cotis.

Carton Law Firm, L.L.C., attorneys for respondent Lee Strohmenger (James D. Carton, III, on the brief).

Before Judges Ashrafi and Leone.

PER CURIAM.

In this probate matter, Jean Cotis, the estranged wife of the deceased, William Strohmenger, appeals from several orders that dismissed her claims to a part of his estate and that established a constructive trust for the benefit of their child. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

I.

Cotis and Strohmenger were married at the time of his death but had been living separately for about ten years. They had one child, a ten-year-old son who lived with Cotis in Sussex County. Strohmenger lived in Ocean County but spent time with his son every weekend.

On May 25, 2009, Strohmenger committed suicide in his home. He was distraught about an unfortunate but not uncommon incident that had occurred the previous night. Strohmenger's sister, Diane, [1] was with him on the morning of May 25. He told her he believed the incident would cause the loss of his job as president of a gun manufacturing company, and also prompt Cotis to interfere with his parenting time with his son.

That afternoon, while alone in his office at the manufacturing company, Strohmenger handwrote and signed a will on seven pages of lined paper. The will stated in part:

William J. Strohmenger [2]
William Strohmenger of sound mind body My Will Everything All to my son [full name of son] . . . — I love him — Always Will Lee my sister to be my executor
. . . .
My Last will testament. I leave everything to my son. I want Lee (sister) to be my executor. Here are my accts.
[Listing of bank, retirement, and mortgage account information and location or persons with knowledge of other funds.]
. . . .
Lee Don Marvel has my retirement Ins. from work [phone number] he knows its all for [son's name]
. . . .
Put it all in a trust Fund
Fund for [son's ...

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