What to Do When a Duel Resident of New Jersey and Citizen of Greece Dies with Two Wills?

HNWElder Law, Estate Administration and Probate

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann, a Freehold, NJ Estate Administration and Probate Attorney

Recently, we applied to the County Surrogate to admit for ancillary probate the Last Will of a deceased client who was a dual citizen of both the United States and Greece. The Will was probated by the Justice of the Peace Court of Greece, and our office requested the appointment of the Petitioner, a daughter of the deceased to be the Administrator CTA of the Estate.

The decedent, a dual United States and Greek citizen, died testate in Greece. His 2012 Will was published and validated by the Justice of the Peace Court in Greece (the “Greek Will”). A true copy of the original Greek Will was certified and validated by the Clerk of the Court in Greece. This is all that is required to make the Greek Will effective in Greece; there is no formal probate process.

Estate representatives are not necessary under Greek law so no Estate representatives were appointed in connection with the Greek Will. The Decedent’s daughters are the only heirs named in the Greek Will. The Greek Will was signed by the Decedent after the Decedent executed a Will in the United States, prepared by a very reputable law firm. In the 2001 Will, the Decedent appointed the Petitioner, a New Jersey attorney, as the Executor.

All interested parties signed Renunciations of Administration in New Jersey before a Notary Public. All interested parties acquiesced to the appointment of the Petitioner (the NJ attorney) as Administrator CTA of the Estate.

The assets of the Decedent located within New Jersey and subject to probate were as follows: (1) a very valuable commercial real estate property located in Freehold, New Jersey of which the Decedent was a joint title owner with a third party, and (2) a sizeable bank account.

Under N.J.S.A. 3B:3-9, “a written will is validly executed if executed in compliance with N.J.SA. 3B:3-2 or N.J.S.A. 3B:3-3 or its execution was in compliance with the law of the place where it was executed, or with the law of the place where at the time of execution or at the time of death the testator was domiciled, had a place of abode or was a national.” N.J.S.A 3B:3-26 allows the surrogate to admit a will “of any individual not resident in this State at his death…provided the will is valid under the laws of this State”. Our position was and is that the Greek Will is valid under the laws of New Jersey. Its’ only difference is that it simply failed to appoint an administrator or executor as this is not required under Greek law.

Further, we asked the court to rely on N.J.S.A. 3B:10-7 in order to appoint an Administrator for the Estate. The statute allows the Superior Court “upon satisfactory proof of intestacy, issue letters of administration upon the estate of a non-resident on notice to the administrator as the court shall require, to any person who would be entitled to administration if the intestate had been a resident at his death.” Although this statute speaks to when a non-resident dies intestate, we (advocated that) the Surrogate can apply the statute to the facts at hand to appoint an administrator when none was named in the will.

Therefore, because the Will was valid in Greece at his death, so too is the Greek Will valid in New Jersey, even though in executing the will the Decedent did not comply with the statutory requirements of drafting a will in New Jersey. The Superior Court under its inherent power may probate such a will and grant ancillary letters.

Based upon the foregoing facts and application of law, the Surrogate agreed with us and granted ancillary probate of the validated Greek Will of the Decedent and appointed the Petitioner as Administrator CTA of the Decedent’s Estate, and allowed reimbursement of fees and costs incurred from the estate.

All in all it was a very satisfying outcome for the family and the honoring of Decedent’s intentions who was a dear client of the firm.

To discuss your NJ estate administration and probate matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.


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