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In re Probate of Alleged Will of Pace

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 7, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE PROBATE OF THE ALLEGED WILL OF ANTONIA PACE, DECEASED.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 30, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. P-0093-11.

Gerard D. Pizzillo argued the cause for appellant Albert Pace (Margulies, Wind, P.C., attorneys; Jack Jay Wind, of counsel; Mr. Pizzillo and Mr. Wind, on the briefs).

Shirley B. Whitenack argued the cause for respondent Eric Pace (Schenck, Price, Smith & King, L.L.P., attorneys; Ms. Whitenack, of counsel; Ms. Whitenack and Rahil Darbar, on the brief).

John Pace, respondent pro se.

Before Judges Yannotti and St. John.

PER CURIAM.

Albert Pace appeals from an order entered by the Chancery Division, Probate Part, Monmouth County, on August 17, 2012, denying a motion for approval of a settlement of claims against the Estate of Antonia Pace. The court found it did not have jurisdiction to consider the motion. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

This appeal arises from the following facts. Antonia Pace and her husband John Pace relocated to the United States from Malta. Antonia and John had five children: Albert, Eric, Anthony, Beatrice and Rosemary. Initially, Antonia and John resided in New York City but they later moved to College Point, New York. In 1980, Antonia and her husband moved to a home they purchased in Middletown, New Jersey.

In 2006, Antonia and John relocated to an apartment that Albert had constructed at his house in New York State, but they retained ownership of the Middletown, New Jersey property. At the time, John was suffering from various ailments, including Alzheimer's disease. John died in 2006. Antonia continued to reside in the apartment in New York State.

Antonia died on April 17, 2009, at a hospital in Washingtonville, New York. She was a resident of New York at the time of her death. She was survived by Albert, Eric, Rosemary and Beatrice. Anthony had previously passed away, but he was survived by two children. Beatrice died shortly after Antonia passed away. Beatrice was survived by four children. When Antonia died, she still owned the house in Middletown, New Jersey.

Albert claimed that, two months after Antonia's death, he found a document, which Albert says is Antonia's handwritten will. The document is in Maltese, and Albert had it translated into English. The latter, certified translation states as follows:

This is my will February 2008; I hope that you can understand my hand writing if not, I am sick to go before a lawyer.
His father and I would like to leave everything to our eldest son Albert, the money, the house, the car, ...

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