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Court Won't Address Church's Claim to Decedent's Estate

Will's language was too vague for Catholic diocese's claim.

Key point. The civil courts will not address a church's claim that a decedent intended to leave a portion of his estate to the church, if that intention is not reflected in his will.

A New York court refused to address the claim of a Catholic diocese that a decedent intended to leave a portion of his estate to the diocese. A decedent left a $5 million estate which under the terms of his last will and testament was to be distributed to those charities designated by his executor. The executor later selected a number of charities, but left nothing to the local Catholic diocese. The diocese sought an opportunity to prove in court that the decedent intended to leave his estate to the diocese. A court refused to allow the diocese to intervene. It noted that the diocese was one among an unlimited and undefined group lacking a preferred status under the will, and was precluded from suing to ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • May 1, 1996

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