SOUTHINGTON — On Monday, attorneys will reargue a probate matter involving the estate of Josephine Smoron, this time in front of a Superior Court judge acting in place of a probate judge.
Plaintiffs Samuel Manzo and Kathleen Scripo have been battling attorney John Nugent and the probate court system over the matter. The case has gained notoriety and led to the censure of former Southington probate judge Bryan Meccariello, who did not seek re-election, and an ethics reprimand for Nugent as an attorney.
“It’s going to look at what Judge Meccariello had done,” attorney James Sullivan, who represents Nugent in the matter, said of Monday’s proceedings.
In a pretrial brief, attorney Elliot Gersten, representing Manzo, argued that Nugent did not meet the burden for a gift of real estate transfer to charity, according to the brief. Under state law, Gersten wrote, such a gift can only be made when it is in the best interest of the conserved person, is consistent with proper estate planning and there is no reasonable objection by a party having an interest in the conserved person’s estate as determined by the court.
Gersten maintains that Nugent’s creation of the trusts was not in Smoron’s best interests and not consistent with the Smoron estate planning.
In a brief on behalf of Nugent, Sullivan argued that none of the six potential wills pertaining to the estate can be admitted because they have not been accepted as valid by the probate court. He further argues that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring an appeal since only interested parties and not potentially interested parties can raise an objection, the appeal is untimely and the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
Smoron died in June 2009. She owned a large tract of land off Spring Street that for many years was run as her family’s Valley Spring Farm.
Manzo had worked for the family for years as a caretaker and at one point was named conservator for Smoron.
Nugent was appointed Smoron’s conservator after a social worker noted Smoron was living in inhumane conditions in 2008. Supporters say Manzo may have been overwhelmed, but questioned accusations that Manzo neglected her well-being.
In May 2009, Meccariello authorized Nugent to create two trusts, with Nugent as the trustee, which he later funded with Smoron’s cash assets and real estate. Three local churches were named beneficiaries of the trust.
Included in the trust is a purchase option for local developer Carl Verderame from 2008 that would allow his company to buy the land. Verderame proposed an $18 million athletics complex on land he owns adjacent to the Smoron property, but needed the Smoron land for an access road.
Attorneys have argued over the number of wills, and which, if any, should be considered valid. An early will from Smoron’s brother named the churches as beneficiaries, though Josephine Smoron fought not to have the churches as part of the will and won. A will of hers lists the Scripo family as the main beneficiaries with Manzo receiving a small part of the estate. A later will named Manzo as the primary beneficiary, with the Scripo family receiving a smaller part of the estate.
On Monday, both sides will begin presenting evidence for an appeal de novo, which essentially means the Superior Court judge will hear all evidence in the case as if the date was May 2009.
Southington estate case back in court Monday
November 16, 2012