Home Courts Appellate court upholds ‘undue influence’ ruling in Somers estate case

Appellate court upholds ‘undue influence’ ruling in Somers estate case

A state appellate court has upheld a Westchester Supreme Court ruling that found a caretaker had exercised undue influence over an elderly woman’s property and estate in Somers.

Stoja Rajic had gained control of Noreen Sander’s house in Somers and had been named the sole beneficiary to the estate.

somers estate undue influenceThe Second Appellate Division upheld Westchester Justice Francesca Connolly’s approval of a $591,317 judgment against Rajic, citing a legal precedent that holds that “a wrongdoer should not be permitted to profit from his or her own wrong.”

Rajic worked for Sander from 1996 to 2006, when Sander died. She described her role in court papers as a companion – caretaker, assisting Sander in daily activities and paying bills.

Rajic was paid nearly $105,000 a year. She was on call all day, every day but could hire aides for assistance.

In 2002, Sander sold her house to Rajic for $275,000. They had agreed on $375,000, but deducted $100,000 for allowing Sander to live there for the rest of her life.

They also agreed that Rajic would pay Sander $1,963 a month on a 20-year mortgage.

Twenty months after the deal was struck, Rajic had paid $80,000, by making extra payments. Sander agreed to a satisfaction of the mortgage, so Rajic, having paid less than 30 percent of the mortgage, no longer had to make the monthly payments.

After Sander died in 2006, Donna Faust, her niece, was named executrix of the estate. The family learned that Rajic owned the house and Sander had willed all of her assets to Rajic.

Faust contested the will. Surrogate court declared the will invalid, ruling that it had been obtained by undue influence and found that $352,000 of Sander’s assets had disappeared.

The parties worked out a settlement in 2010. Rajic paid $100,000 to satisfy a debt secured by the house and the mortgage was reinstated.

When Rajic resumed making payments, the estate rejected them.

The dispute sparked two new lawsuits: Rajic’s action to establish how much she owed on the mortgage and Faust’s action to foreclose on the house.

Faust demanded the entire mortgage principal, plus interest, back to 2002. Rajic claimed that Faust had fraudulently induced her to sign the 2010 settlement, by not disclosing that she intended to treat the reinstated mortgage retroactively, creating an immediate 9-year default.

Appellate Justices Mark C. Dillon, Leonard B. Austin, Robert J. Miller and Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix ruled that the lower court records support Connolly’s conclusion. Rajic had exercised undue influence over Sander, handled Sander’s financial affairs unscrupulously, obtained the deed to the house through fraud and accepted a satisfaction of mortgage knowing that the debt was far from being satisfied.

The appellate justices cited the Riggs doctrine, in which a man who intentionally killed his grandfather to ensure his inheritance was denied the inheritance.

The Riggs doctrine, the panel ruled, holds that no one shall be permitted to profit by his own fraud.

1 COMMENT

  1. She did the same thing to Charles Wolff. Alienated him form his family. Took him for everything she could. Made him change his will to leave all properties to her. Etc. She is a true predator.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here