In re Koutsakos, 2022-50240

CourtNew York Surrogate Court
Writing for the CourtPETER J. KELLY, J.
PartiesProbate Proceeding, Will of Juanita Koutsakos, a/k/a JUANITA TEDESCHI KOUTSAKOS, a/k/a JUANITA T. KOUTSAKOS, Deceased.
Docket Number2022-50240,2020-4726
Decision Date23 March 2022

Probate Proceeding, Will of Juanita Koutsakos, a/k/a JUANITA TEDESCHI KOUTSAKOS, a/k/a JUANITA T. KOUTSAKOS, Deceased.

No. 2022-50240

No. 2020-4726

Surrogate's Court, Queens County

March 23, 2022


Unpublished Opinion

ANTONELLI & ANTONELLI, ATTORNEYS AT LAWDANIEL ANTONELLI, ESQ

PETER J. KELLY, J.

Petitioner seeks to probate a handwritten instrument dated March 18, 2020 as a holographic will and for the issuance of letters of administration c.t.a.

During the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the decedent was admitted to New York Presbyterian Queens Hospital on March 14, 2020 due to symptoms she was exhibiting from an ongoing battle with cancer. She died in the hospital eight days later on March 22, 2020 survived by her sole distributee spouse Steven.

Proffered for probate is an instrument purportedly handwritten by decedent in the hospital on March 18, 2020 naming her niece Maria as sole beneficiary. The instrument is on a single piece of folded plain white paper and primarily consists of one dispositive sentence, handwritten in black ink on the top half thereof, followed by the name of two banks, the signature of the decedent, and the signature and acknowledgment of a notary public. It reads as follows:

State of New York
County of Queens
I Juanita Tedeschi Koutsakos being of sound body and mind bequest my worldly possessions to my niece Maria Parrella Chase Bank, Ridgewood
+ Savings
Juanita Tedeschi Koutsakos { signed }
Sworn to before me this
18 March 2020
Colleen B ***** { signed }
{ Notary Public Stamp, State on New York }
{ Registration Number }

The instrument disinheriting Steven bequeaths Maria an estate alleged to consist of $200, 000.00.

As for the circumstances of the execution, Maria submits an affidavit stating that on March 17, 2020 decedent asked her to find a lawyer to draft a will bequeathing Maria the entire estate. The same day, Maria called an attorney who said it was her standard practice to meet with a testator before drafting a will and that she was not comfortable going to the hospital out of concern for exposure to coronavirus. That attorney now submits an affirmation confirming that she refused to draft the document as requested under the circumstances. Maria states that she and a cousin tried contacting other attorneys on March 17 and 18 to draft a will for decedent but their efforts were likewise unsuccessful.

At some point Maria was able to enlist the assistance of notary public Colleen who agreed to go to the hospital on March 18 to act as a notary. Colleen's acknowledgment appears on the instrument as above. Additionally, an unattached, separate page of folded plain white paper titled "All Purpose Acknowledgment," which is placed under the proffered document, is submitted. It states, in substance, that decedent appeared before notary Colleen on March 18, 2020, that decedent provided satisfactory proof of her name, and that decedent acknowledged to the notary that her signature appears thereon.

Submitted with the petition and the foregoing document are a purported waiver and consent by Steven and an affidavit bearing Steven's name proving the handwriting of decedent. A full signature of Steven's name appears on the affidavit proving decedent's handwriting which is dated September 9, 2020. However, the waiver and consent, which is dated three months later on December 8, 2020, is signed above Steven's name with only an "X".

Petitioner's affidavit states that Steven suffers from severe arthritis and is currently only able to sign that way. Although the signatures are inconsistent, the court is cognizant that a signature may be made by any memorandum, mark or signature, written or printed on any instrument with intent to execute or authenticate it (General Construction Law § 46).

Turning to the proffered instrument, a will is considered holographic...

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