July 19, 2024
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July 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A U.S. and NATO Parable

Three years ago, a client of mine, Ms. Bridge, presented me with the following family problem.

Her mom had passed a year prior, and left [her] and her brother, Mr. Berlin, a two-family home in the west part of the state.

Before the mom passed, her brother lived in one of the two apartments of the home. While Mom was alive, the brother provided some care for the mom, and maintained the house in terms of snow removal, lawn care. But, the mom paid all of the expenses, such as taxes and insurance and roof and repairs, for both units.

After the mom passed, the brother, Mr. Berlin, remained in the apartment in the house, but did not pay rent for his occupancy. The estate of the mom paid all expenses for a year, as if Mom were still alive. After the estate was distributed, the house was passed equally to my client, Ms. Bridge, and to Mr. Berlin. But, Mr. Berlin continued not to pay any expenses, contending that his being in the house meant it was safe from prowlers, and he kept the lawn up, and why should he have to pay more for being in the house?

This did not sit well with Ms. Bridge. It seemed unfair to me as her lawyer.

Ms. Bridge decided she had to take aggressive action to make her brother pay his fair share. I represented Ms. Bridge in a court proceeding. The relatives were aghast that Ms. Bridge took a family member to court. How could you sue a relative and really, a lifetime ally?

Ms. Bridge insisted she was being shortchanged. The judge agreed, and Mr. Berlin was ordered to pay fair market value rent for his occupancy.

Today, my client, Ms. Bridge, and Mr. Berlin are reconciled. They attend family events, they are cordial and the house makes money for them because with Mr. Berlin’s rent and the rent of the other unit, they are doing well.

Avi Borenstein, Esq.
Springfield
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