If it's 'On Season,' then...

Friday, May 29, 2015

If it's 'On Season,' then...

...The New York Post is gearing up for reporting any sort of dirt it can on anyone where it feels their might be a "Hamptons hook" to the story.

From Sunday's edition:

Judge sucking cash from woman with dementia’s estate: suit

In support of the OtBB thesis is the reporter's lead:

"A Hamptons judge once censured by the state took advantage of a wealthy, legally blind, dementia-stricken Manhattan woman just so he could suck legal fees out of her estate, according to a lawsuit."

There it is, right up front: "Hamptons." And while the weather might not feel quite like it, it's after Memorial Day, so we're in the "Summer season."

The lead paragraph, "[a] Hamptons judge once censured by the state," also provides a clue as to the identity of the jurist being sued: yup!, it's Gus, Robert A. Kelly, Jr.

The story in the New York City tabloid is a disturbing one, particularly the part asserting:

"The Coles matriarch 'fell prey to myriad of opportunists who inserted themselves into her life in attempts to access and/or control her overt wealth,' her daughter says in a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit against one of the alleged 'opportunists.'"

(The suit, as filed in New York State Supreme Court: Verified Complaint of Diana Coles, Individually and as Executor of the Estate of Frances Coles, v. Robert A. Kelly, Jr., Esq.)

Yup, Gus again...

"Lawyer Robert A. Kelly Jr., who has been a village justice in Westhampton Beach since 1996, had been hired by Frances Coles to help plan her affairs but didn't do the job properly, failing to plan for any estate taxes, Diana claims."

A reading and re-reading of the entire story leaves the lay person confused as whether the allegations are, as they say on PTI, "something or nothing," so the question was raised with several members of the bar.

"When I see and hear things like this," one said, "I wonder if Gus actually attended any of his Ethics courses. I think he may have some problems here."

Another was more expansive:

"It is clear that Kelly inserted himself in the affairs of a person in need of supervision, but the question is whether the PIS was competent at the time these events occurred. It is clear that Kelly will receive a great deal of money as co-executor of the estate and possibly as trustee. Now he has a lawsuit to deal with.

As to the tax avoidance issues, that is up to his mal­practice carrier to handle.

Even though Mr. Kelly may escape a liability claim, this may be a matter for the Bar Association."

Referring the story to an attorney friend who specializes in Estate Planning, he responded:

"It's a great big 'something.' The lawyer phrase is 'financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.' It's very common for people to help themselves to the money of an elderly, demented person, by having themselves named as Agent under a power of attorney.

The thing that sounds fishy in the article is '[not doing] the job properly.' If he had his hand in the cookie jar, that's one thing. But the business about 'failure to plan her estate to lessen estate taxes' is rubbish."

A fourth opinion solicited replied:

"I cannot find any lawsuit on the docket in NY Supreme by a Coles against a Kelly and I couldn't find anything in the NY Law Journal about the matter. It could have been served but a request for judicial intervention may not yet be filed with the court."

(Which leads one to wonder whether the aggrieved daughter merely intends to litigate her complaint in the media.)

For his part, the comment-less Gus Kelly is standing, currently unopposed, for his sixth term as Westhampton Beach Village Justice four weeks from now.


1. WR Moore said...

Overheard between two attorneys at an establishment largely frequented by members of the bar. I was a guest.

    "How did that estate probate go?"

    "It was a nightmare. The heirs got almost as much money as I did."

Snide witticisms aside, when heirs get less/expect to get less than they think the 'wealthy' relative had, they frequently allege misdeeds by the attorney/estate executor. Lawsuits about failure to properly execute proper fiduciary responsibility have been growing. Don't know disposition.

That was actually my initial reading of the story, and I daresay that The NY Post allowed for that by attributing everything to the suit filed by the daughter.

But when I ran the story past a quartet of attorneys, including one who specializes in this very realm... well, I quoted their responses.

2. RCIM11978 said...

You like picking on Gus Kelly & Jim Hulme, doncha? This stupid NY Post story looks like nothing! Besides, what'd they ever do to you?

Me personally? Nothing comes to mind.

Me collectively, as a long time resident of the Village? Plenty! Most of which I've previously written about... the money they've cost the Village in litigation to retain title to land (Hazlewood Avenue) and lost the Village in running the Westhampton Beach Justice Court at a perennial loss, one of a very few in the state to do so!

So you tell me! Here's the actual New York State Supreme Court Verified Complaint of Diana Coles, Individually and as Executor of the Estate of Frances Coles, v. Robert A. Kelly, Jr., Esq. Read it and tell me what you think!

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