Articles Posted in Supreme Court of New Jersey

This appeal centered on challenges to several documents and disbursements that were purportedly executed by Adrian Folcher in the closing days of his life. Petitioner Bernice Tambascia-Folcher, Folcher's wife and a beneficiary, used that relationship to commit a pattern of fraud, forgery, and undue influence near the end of his life. After the conclusion of a lengthy estate contest, the trial court invoked that relationship, coupled with its finding of undue influence, to shift the Estate's counsel fees to Bernice. The issue for the Supreme Court's review was whether it should expand the narrow exception to the American Rule created in "In re Niles Trust," (176 N.J. 282 (2003)). After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court declined to expand the Niles exception to a person who did not owe a fiduciary responsibility to the Estate and its beneficiaries, no matter how repugnant the conduct. "Because that confidential relationship endowed Bernice with an obligation to only her husband, and not the Estate, a fee award was not the proper vehicle to do equity. The trial court had other, unused means at its disposal for that." The Court remanded this case back to the trial court to vacate the fee award and to allow the court to consider other equitable relief that was foregone because fee-shifting mistakenly became an integral part of the court's equitable remedy. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Adrian J. Folcher" on Justia Law