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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Symphonies playing different tunes over will litigation

Minnesota residents who are preparing their wills should take heed of a recent case out of New Jersey. The case speaks to the need for proper will administration, as a lack of attention to detail can leave heirs squabbling.

The litigation involves the will administration of an Austrian-born researcher. In his will, he left most of his estate, a sum estimated at $700,000, to an "Israeli Symphony Orchestra." Oddly, though, the executor of his estate cannot find any orchestra in Israel with that name.

There are, however, two Israeli orchestras going to court to claim the money. One is the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and the other is the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion. Both parties contend they should be granted the funds.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ordered that both parties be informed of the will. The high court was scheduled to hear the case on Dec. 15, almost one year after the researcher's death. The lawyer for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra contends that friends of the researcher, in addition to his widow, have signed statements saying they did not know of any other orchestra. The lawyer alleges that the Philharmonic has performed multiple times in both New York and New Jersey.

The lawyer for the other party -- the Israel Symphony -- is arguing that the wording in the will refers to a symphony, not a philharmonic. At this point, it will be up to the high court to have the final word. The case serves as a cautionary example to Minnesotans who desire appropriate attention to detail in the preparation of will.

Source: haaretz.com, "Vying ensembles strike a dissonant chord / Orchestras go to court over inheritance," Haggai Hitron, Nov. 29, 2011

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