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Connecticut estate case exposes inheritance rights realities

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Guest Author:  Lou Ann Anderson

Lou Ann Anderson is an advocate working to create awareness regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture.  She is the Online Producer at www.EstateofDenial.com, a Policy Advisor with Americans for Prosperity – Texas Foundation and a Director of Women on the Wall.  Lou Ann may be contacted at info@EstateofDenial.com.

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People believe they have the right to determine their final asset distribution.  The legal industry perpetually promotes proper estate planning as a vehicle to ensure wishes are honored.  Greed and self-interest, however, can derail even the most well-prepared of plans and today’s probate system is increasingly home to such actions.  The estate of Josephine Smoron, an elderly Connecticut woman with expressly clear wishes, exposes the harsh realities of American property rights and rights of inheritance.

Josephine Smoron believed estate planning documents would ensure her longtime caretaker Sam Manzo’s inheritance of Smoron’s 80-acre farm and cows valued at more than $1 million.  Recognizing local interest in developing her property, Smoron was adamant that churches previously involved in a dispute over her brother’s estate have no claim to her estate.  These wishes were clearly expressed in a 1996 will and an updated 2004 version.

As Smoron’s health deteriorated, Manzo was replaced as her conservator by a court-appointed conservator under the orders of Southington Probate Judge Bryan F. Meccariello.  Before Smoron’s June 2009 death at age 92, Meccariello approved a change in her will designating all property be given to three area Catholic churches.  Manzo was disinherited and there appeared no evidence this change reflected Smoron’s wishes.

A purchase agreement with local developer Carl Verderame promptly surfaced and plans for Smoron’s farm becoming home to an $18 million indoor sports complex generating $200,000 of new tax revenue were announced.  Manzo filed a complaint with Connecticut’s Council on Probate Judicial Conduct that resulted in Meccariello being “censured” for the second time in three years causing the judge to withdraw his bid for re-election. More

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