Smoron land caretaker one step closer to inheritance (CT)

SOUTHINGTON — After four years of legal wrangling, a Newington probate judge has approved a 2004 will naming a local caretaker to inherit the land and property of Josephine Smoron.

During a July 19 probate hearing, Judge Robert Randich accepted the will granting Samuel Manzo the administrative rights to the property and called for an inventory of its assets.

Manzo was stonewalled from receiving the 80-90 acres of farmland after Smoron’s former conservator local attorney John Nugent referenced an earlier will and transferred her property into two trusts.

Last week, Manzo’s attorney’s petitioned Randich to determine title and ownership of the property so Manzo can conduct an inventory. The property is now listed in town records as owned by the Smoron irrevocable trust, John Nugent trustee.

“We are seeking the court’s approval to restore the status quo … before the wrongs were done,” said attorney Eliot Gersten of law firm Pullman and Comley LLC.

Manzo has two months to provide the inventory to the court and the case is expected to be resolved in a year.

Randich has yet to rule on the request.

Josephine Smoron, whose Spring Street land is considered prime real estate near Interstate 84, died at age 92 in June 2009. Much of the property consists of a ramshackle farm that Manzo has been taking care of and maintaining using his own money. Smoron created two wills, with the 2004 instrument leaving the bulk of her property to Manzo and a lesser amount to the Scirpo family of Durham. According to court records, Nugent reported Smoron had $218,826 in cash and total assets of about $1.2 million at the time of her death.

After Smoron’s death, Manzo tried to collect his inheritance and was told there was about $6,000 in the estate. Manzo’s attorneys discovered the two trusts and sought legal recourse in probate and superior courts. Nugent was appointed her conservator by former Southington Probate Judge Bryan Meccariello in early 2009. In May of that year, Nugent created the two trusts while naming himself trustee. Meccariello approved their creation on May 12, 2009 and two days later, Nugent transferred the property out of the estate and into the trusts.

Neither Nugent, nor his attorney James Sullivan could be reached for comment.

According to court records, Nugent also entered into a deal with local developer Carl Verderame to buy the property for $1.5 million for use as an access road to Verderame’s proposed sports complex off Interstate 84. Three local churches were to be named beneficiaries of the sale, not Manzo.

Manzo’s attorneys battled Nugent for years in superior and probate courts until Hartford Judge William Bright ruled in March that the trusts were invalid and ordered the case back to probate court. He also had sharp words for the attorneys involved who failed to consider Smoron’s final wishes, according to his ruling.

Nugent was disciplined by the Statewide Grievance Committee in 2012 for violating ethics laws in his handling of the Smoron case. Meccariello was censured by the Council on Probate Judicial Conduct for his role and did not seek re-election in 2010.

Two other lawsuits against Nugent and other lawyers involved in establishing the trusts are also pending in Hartford Superior Court, including one by Manzo to recover legal costs, Gersten said.

“I know it’s been hard and frustrating for Sam,” Gersten said. “But he’s been persistent and patient.”


Smoron land caretaker one step closer to inheritance
Mary Ellen Godin
August 11, 2013
My Record-Journal

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