In a nearly empty courtroom in Hartford on Monday, a half-dozen lawyers continued to fight over the dying wishes of a Southington woman who wanted to give her farm to the man who helped her care for the place for decades.
Instead of the probate court system making sure Manzo inherited the farm – what Josephine Smoron explicitly stated in her 2004 will – the controversy drags on, bouncing about dreary courtrooms, waiting for a judge to take charge and right a monumental wrong.
“My client is in desperate need to have this go forward,” Eliot Gersten, one of Manzo’s lawyers, told Superior Court Judge William H. Bright on Monday morning, complaining that bills aren’t getting paid. “This delay is hurting my client. He is living without heat.”
The case has landed in Judge Bright’s courtroom because the man appointed as conservator for Smoron, Southington lawyer John Nugent, has refused to step aside and admit his error. Nugent still controls two trusts that he set up in 2009 — unbeknownst to the dying Smoron or Manzo — that contain the estate’s assets.
The plan might have gone unchallenged if Manzo hadn’t complained to court authorities, who eventually ruled that Nugent abused his position as conservator. The Southington probate judge who appointed him, Bryan Meccariello, was censured by the Council on Probate Judicial Conduct for allowing Nugent to set up the trusts, which circumvent Smoron’s will. Meccariello did not run for re-election in 2010.
The trusts remain, and efforts to restore Manzo’s inheritance have stalled.
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Probate Fight Over Southington Farm Continues