Estate of Hama

NEW YORK COUNTY
Trusts and Estates

New York Law Journal

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Surrogate Kristin Booth Glen

The court opined if Machida abandoned her husband, decedent Hama, thus forfeited rights regarding his estate that she would otherwise be entitled to as the surviving spouse. Hama and Machida married, allegedly, to save Hama on capital gains taxes on the sale of real property. Yet, the court noted the reason for the marriage was irrelevant to disqualification of a surviving spouse under Estates Powers and Trusts Law §5-1.2(a)(5). When they both, separately, moved to Japan, Machida reconciled with a prior paramour and "registered" as husband and wife, with Hama fully aware of the "marriage" acting as a witness. Thus, the court stated Hama's participation in the registration of Machida's "marriage" in Japan to another was the opposite of "lack of consent" required to disqualify her from inheriting as Hama's surviving spouse, and there could be no finding of abandonment. It noted, however, one controlling appellate decision, Matter of Oswald, which the Court of Appeals affirmed without opinion. However, notwithstanding the distinctions of Oswald with the instant matter, as Hama actively supported the very act claimed to be an unwanted abandonment, the court was constrained to hold in favor of Hama's parents, granting them summary judgment for letters of administration.

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