In re Proceeding to Withdraw Funds Deposited with the Commissioner of Finance in the Estate of Singh, 2022-30370

CourtNew York Surrogate Court
Writing for the CourtNora S. Anderson Judge
PartiesProceeding to Withdraw Funds Deposited with the Commissioner of Finance in the Estate of PYARA SINGH, Deceased.
Decision Date14 February 2022
Docket NumberFile 2006-2725/A,2022-30370

Proceeding to Withdraw Funds Deposited with the Commissioner of Finance in the Estate of PYARA SINGH, Deceased.

No. 2022-30370

File No. 2006-2725/A

Surrogates Court, New York County

February 14, 2022


Unpublished Opinion

Nora S. Anderson Judge

In this contested proceeding in the estate of Pyara Singh to withdraw funds on deposit, petitioner, decedent's sister Bachan Kaur, ("petitioner") moves for sanctions against objectant Marina Jayne Squires ("Squires" or "objectant") for failure to provide document discovery. Specifically, petitioner seeks an order deeming that obectant was not married to decedent at the time of his death; prohibiting her from supporting her contention that she is decedent's surviving spouse; and striking her answer/objection in which she makes this contention (CPLR 3126 [1], [2] and [3]).

Pyara Singh, a New York domiciliary, died intestate on April 10, 2006. Letters of Administration issued to the Public Administrator of New York County, who upon completing the administration of the estate filed her account and asked the court to determine decedent's distributees. As no one appeared to present evidence of kinship, the court ordered that the proceeds of the estate, approximately $708, 000, be deposited with the New York City Department of Finance for the benefit of decedent's unknown distributees.

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Petitioner filed this proceeding in 2011 seeking to withdraw the funds on deposit, alleging that she was decedent's sole distributee. Objectant did not make herself known to the court until five years later when she filed a petition seeking revocation of the letters of the Public Administrator and issuance of letters to herself. She identified herself as decedent's widow and sole distributee, and alleged that she was not previously aware of the existence of the estate of the decedent. Objectant ultimately did not pursue the administration petition.

Petitioner thereupon amended the withdrawal petition to name objectant as a necessary party. Objectant then appeared by counsel and filed objections seeking dismissal of the petition on the ground that she is decedent's surviving spouse.

Prior to objectant's appearance, the court heard the expert testimony of a genealogist engaged by petitioner describing investigations which she took in the United States and in India to identify decedent's distributees. The genealogist testified that she located an employment document dated shortly after decedent arrived in the United States in which decedent was described as having a wife and a two year old son in India. In later documents from the same employer, decedent's marital status appeared as "single" based on information provided by decedent himself. The genealogist testified that she investigated whether

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decedent was survived by a wife and/or children by engaging a private investigator who interviewed objectant on two occasions in 2014 at objectant's then-residence in Abohar, India.

According to the investigator's report, objectant told the investigator that she had been married to decedent in an arranged, unregistered social marriage in India shortly before he emigrated to the United States in 1971; that the marriage lasted only a short time and ended in a divorce; that she received divorce papers in 1979 or 1980; that during the marriage she became pregnant by decedent on two occasions and terminated both pregnancies; that she later settled in Canada and married her second husband, Inder Singh (also known as Inder Singh Dhillon); that she and Inder Singh had a son William, now about forty years old; and that she later separated from her second husband. She told the investigator that she was formerly known as Kuldip Kaur and Baldeer Kaur Ramen, and later legally changed her name to Marina Jane Squires. (In papers filed with this court, objectant identifies herself as Marina Jayne Squires a/k/a Kuldip Kaur a/k/a Kuldip Kaur Bajwa a/k/a Kuldip Kaur Gill.) She showed the investigator her Indian and two Canadian passports, one issued to "Kuldip Kaur Dhillon (nee Gill)" and the second to Marina Jane Squires. She also showed the investigator a Canadian citizenship document issued to Marina Jayne Squires; pictures of herself and her son; and a list of her addresses since 1948. Photographs of

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these documents are attached to the investigator's report.

In addition, the investigator obtained a copy of a 1980 affidavit from Jangir Kaur Gill, in which Gill identified herself as the mother of Kuldip Kaur Gill (i.e., objectant) and affirmed that her daughter and decedent (referred to as Pyara Singh Bajwa) were married in an arranged Sikh marriage in December 1970; that they were incompatible; and that...

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