The Fourth Department determined the executor of the estate (respondent) properly waived the attorney-client privilege on decedent’s (Anthony’s) behalf and demonstrated. through the decedent’s attorney’s testimony, that decedent’s shares in the corporation (NYSFC) had been transferred to the executor well before decedent’s death. Therefore the shares were properly excluded from the estate. Despite the absence of stock certificates and corporate records, there was no showing that the executor destroyed evidence:
… [T]he Surrogate held a nonjury trial during which respondent, in his capacity as executor, waived decedents’ attorney-client privilege, and decedents’ former counsel thereafter testified that she did not include a specific bequest with respect to Anthony’s NYSFC shares in his most recent will because Anthony had already transferred those shares to respondent. After the trial, the Surrogate concluded that respondent had in fact satisfied his burden and specifically established that the shares of NYSFC were sold and transferred to respondent prior to Anthony’s death. * * *
On appeal, petitioners contend that Mayorga [302 AD2d 11] and Johnson [7 AD3d 959] support waiver of the attorney-client privilege by an executor only if the waiver benefits the estate. Petitioners assert that excluding an asset from the estate would not benefit the estate or its beneficiaries and that those cases therefore do not support a waiver of the attorney-client privilege here inasmuch as any waiver would only benefit the executor respondent. The 2nd Department, however, has permitted the waiver of the attorney-client privilege under circumstances similar to those presented here … .
… [W]e … reject petitioners’ contention that respondent should not have been allowed to waive the attorney-client privilege on decedents’ behalf as executor due to his own self-interest in the testimony of the decedents’ former counsel. Thus, we hereby join the 2nd and 3rd Departments in concluding that the attorney-client privilege may be waived by an executor. Matter of Thomas, 2019 NY Slip Op 08293, Fourth Dept 11-15-19