Estate of Hillowitz
22 N.Y.2d 107, 238 N.E.2d 723, 291 N.Y.S.2d 325 (1968)

  • Hillowitz was a member of an investment club. When he died, the club paid the widow $2.8k (his interest in the partnership).
    • This is known as a payable-upon-death contract.
  • Hillowitz's estate claimed that the $2.8k was part of Hillowitz's estate and should be probated according to his will.
    • Hillowitz's widow claimed that she was a third party beneficiary of a valid non-probate contract, and the money was never owned by Hillowitz and shouldn't be considered part of his estate.
  • The Probate Court found that the money was not part of Hillowitz's estate. The executor appealed.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and found that the agreement was invalid as an attempted testamentary deposition. Hillowitz's widow appealed.
  • The New York Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court and said the money rightfully belonged to the widow.
    • The way the partnership was structured, Hillowitz owned an interest while he survived. However, that interest dissolved upon his death. The $2.8k was never owned by Hillowitz and therefore was never part of his estate.
  • The Uniform Probate Code § 6-101 specifically says that non-probate contracts such as this one are not considered to be testamentary. It further says that:
    • These contracts are revocable through such events as a divorce.
    • Anti-lapse Statutes should apply if the beneficiary predeceases the decedent.
    • The beneficiary must survive by more than 5 days past the decedent (simultaneous death)