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In re Estate of Badruddin

Supreme Court of New York, Third Department

July 20, 2017

In the Matter of the Estate of MOHAMED K. BADRUDDIN, Deceased. YASMIN KOOLSAM BADRUDDIN, Respondent; YASMIN NURANI KADERALI BADRUDDIN et al., Appellants. (And Another Related Proceeding.)

          Calendar Date: June 8, 2017

          Yasmin Nurani Kaderali Badruddin, Queensbury, appellant pro se.

          Salimah Badruddin, Glens Falls, appellant pro se.

          Zaharah Badruddin, Glens Falls, appellant pro se.

          Elmen Law Firm, PC, Saratoga Springs (Lawrence Elmen of counsel), for respondent.

          Before: Garry, J.P., Egan Jr., Lynch, Mulvey and Aarons, JJ.


          GARRY, J.P.

         Appeal from an order of the Surrogate's Court of Warren County (Hall Jr., S.), entered April 22, 2016, which, in a proceeding pursuant to SCPA article 5, among other things, denied respondents' motion to vacate a prior stipulation of settlement.

         Mohamed K. Badruddin (hereinafter decedent) and petitioner were married in Nairobi, Kenya in 1970 and are the parents of a daughter who was born in Kenya in 1971. Decedent entered the United States in 1974. Between 1974 and 1977, he filed several documents with the Immigration and Naturalization Service that identified petitioner as his then current spouse; however, in a 1982 filing, he asserted that he and petitioner had been divorced in Kenya in 1975. In 1984, decedent married respondent Yasmin Nurani Kaderali Badruddin (hereinafter Nurani) in Florida. They had two daughters, respondents Zahara Badruddin and Salimah Badruddin.

         Decedent died in May 2007, leaving a will that named "[his] wife, Yasmin K. Badruddin" as the sole beneficiary and executor of his estate. Thereafter, Nurani petitioned for probate and letters testamentary in Surrogate's Court, estimating decedent's estate to be worth approximately $35, 000. The court admitted the will to probate and issued letters testamentary to Nurani. In June 2009, Nurani filed a sworn list of assets that, contrary to her previous assessment of the estate's value, reported that decedent owned nine parcels of real estate at the time of his death with a total value of $2, 775, 000.

         In March 2009, petitioner filed a notice of claim against decedent's estate, alleging that she and decedent had been divorced in Kenya and seeking unpaid child support pursuant to a 1974 Kenyan court order [1]. Thereafter, petitioner produced what she asserted were official Kenyan documents showing that there was no record in Kenya of any divorce judgment dissolving her marriage to decedent. In January 2013, she filed a petition alleging that she was still married to decedent at the time of his death and seeking to exercise her elective share; she also sought revocation of Nurani's letters testamentary, issuance of letters testamentary to petitioner, and a declaration that petitioner was decedent's wife and the "Yasmin K. Badruddin" who was identified in the will as the sole beneficiary [2]. Nurani filed a motion to dismiss the petition, relying upon, among other things, a document that she asserted was a 1973 Kenyan divorce decree dissolving the marriage of petitioner and decedent. Petitioner opposed the motion, and each party challenged the validity of the other's purported Kenyan records. In July 2014, Surrogate's Court, as pertinent here, denied Nurani's motion insofar as it sought to dismiss petitioner's right of election claim, and ordered a hearing to determine the identity of the surviving spouse. Nurani filed a notice of appeal.

         Surrogate's Court issued multiple orders throughout the litigation directing Nurani to file an accounting or to show cause why her letters testamentary should not be revoked for her failure to do so [3]. Nurani did not comply with any of these orders; no accounting was ever filed, nor did she comply with numerous other court orders and discovery demands seeking information about estate assets. Further, in March 2013, the court issued an order prohibiting Nurani from transferring any estate assets. Following the entry of this order, Nurani executed deeds that conveyed all but one of the properties that she had previously listed as estate assets to Salimah Badruddin. During the same time period, respondents allegedly found eight deeds among decedent's effects that were dated before decedent's death and purported to be inter vivos transfers of all but one of the listed properties from decedent to Nurani [4]. Respondents recorded these deeds. Additionally, Salimah Badruddin sold a property that Nurani had previously listed as an estate asset to a third party for $925, 000, and deposited the proceeds in a personal account. Respondents did not advise Surrogate's Court or their counsel of any of these transactions; they were ultimately discovered in the fall of 2014.

         In October 2014, based upon its determination that Nurani had disobeyed multiple court orders, Surrogate's Court revoked her letters testamentary and appointed a special administrator to handle the estate. The court again ordered Nurani to file an accounting of her handling of decedent's estate within 60 days. She did not do so.

         An evidentiary hearing was scheduled for November 7, 2014 to address petitioner's application to hold respondents in contempt for their violations of court orders. On that day, rather than holding the hearing, the parties entered into a so-ordered stipulation. In this stipulation they agreed that petitioner would be treated as the surviving spouse for purposes of exercising her right to an elective share, and that Nurani would be the beneficiary under decedent's will. Nurani agreed to waive all objections to petitioner's claim to an elective share and to withdraw her appeal from the court's denial of her motion to dismiss that claim; petitioner withdrew her claim that she was the beneficiary of the ...

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