Foreign family members challenge wife’s control of dead husband’s estate
Brooklyn court demands wife pay children’s guardian
A woman thought she had been happily married when her husband died, leaving her administrator of his estate — until her in-laws arrived from Egypt to challenge her appointment.
Heidi Cedno and her husband sealed their nuptials in New York in 1997 and moved to Delaware until her husband’s death in February 2011. Cedno contends that she and her husband were a happily married couple who jointly raised their four children, ranging in age from 14 to 17 years old.
Upon her husband’s death, Cedno, as the widow, was appointed administrator of the estate, with the power to make decisions that could affect the financial interests of her dependent children.
Shortly after his death, however, Cedno’s in-laws arrived from Egypt and unceremoniously contested Cedno’s appointment as administrator. According to her in-laws, Cedno and her deceased husband were in fact divorced.
Alleged divorce papers were obtained in Brooklyn featuring Cedno’s notarized signature. Cedno asserted that she did not knowingly sign divorce papers, noting to the court that she often signed business papers at her husband’s request without reading the documents’ content.
Concerned for the children’s potential financial interests, the court assigned a guardian ad litem to represent the children’s interests separate from their mother. A guardian ad litem may be assigned by the court “because of a conflict of interest or for other cause…[such as]… where the parents’ pecuniary interest is in conflict with those of the children,” Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Jeffery Sunshine wrote in an opinion on the Cedno matter.
Cedno moved to have the court-appointed guardian removed. Having failed at that endeavor, she refused to cooperate with the guardian or with her own attorney. “It is apparent to this Court, that once a guardian ad litem was appointed, the wife ceased cooperating with her attorney and ignored all requests for information concerning the estate proceeding,” Sunshine noted.
While the court appoints a guardian, the guardian’s fees are often paid through the challenged estate. Here, the Cedno children’s guardian demanded payment in the amount of $1,677.50. Sunshine, frustrated with Cedno’s obstruction and refusal to actively participate, ordered a judgment against her for the guardian’s full pay request.
“[T]he wife has failed to cooperate with the guardian ad litem or her own attorney,” wrote Sunshine. As such, Cedno was given 30 days to make payment without any further penalties.
It is unclear when the issue of the estate and the validity of the alleged divorce will be adjudicated.
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