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Widow wants handwritten contract to trump will

Woman asks court to make her sole beneficiary of multimillion-dollar estate

A Baltimore woman is seeking to have a handwritten contract between her and her late husband enforced as a will.

Chana Lepman alleges the contract should supersede a 2008 will created and executed by Joshua Lepman before the couple was married that she previously did not know existed, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

“If something happens to me (Chana), everything I have goes to Josh – if something happens to Josh, everything goes to Chana,” states a handwritten contract Chana Lepman claims should supersede her late husband’s 2008 will.

“If something happens to me (Chana), everything I have goes to Josh – if something happens to Josh, everything goes to Chana,” states a handwritten contract Chana Lepman claims should supersede her late husband’s 2008 will.

Joshua Lepman died suddenly in May, according to the lawsuit. His will names 17 beneficiaries, mostly tax-exempt charities, for an estate worth $1.8 million, according to the lawsuit.

The Lepmans were planning a trip overseas last year when a lawyer friend, Jonathan Libber, recommended they execute wills before leaving, according to the complaint.

Though the Lepmans did not have time to execute formal wills before they departed, Chana Lepman, allegedly wrote a contract that gave Libber the authority to handle their estates.

“If something happens to me (Chana), everything I have goes to Josh – if something happens to Josh, everything goes to Chana,” states the document, dated Oct. 12, 2014, and signed by the Lepmans.

The document was attached as an exhibit to the lawsuit.

The couple returned home safely and began taking steps to have formal wills drafted and signed when Joshua Lepman died, according to the complaint. Libber was named personal representative of the estate and, having been told where to find the signed contract, attempted to offer it for probate but was denied, according to the lawsuit.

The 2008 will has been offered for probate but has not been accepted, according to the complaint.

Libber did not respond to a call seeking comment Friday.

Kelly M. Preteroti, Chana Lepman’s lawyer, filed a petition to caveat on July 15, according to electronic court records. Preteroti, a principal at Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver PC in Baltimore, said Friday she could not comment on the case without first speaking with her client.

The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that the 2014 contract, which does not meet the requirements for a will or holographic will, is valid and the Orphans’ Court must distribute Joshua Lepman’s assets according to the contract.

Chana Lepman also objects to the prenuptial agreement she signed in August 2012 having any bearing on the distribution of her late husband’s assets, according to the complaint. The agreement provided that it did not restrict the rights of each party to convey or transfer property during their lifetimes or through a will.

The complaint alleges that Chana Lepman received the document and was asked to sign it on the same day and did not have the opportunity to have an attorney review the agreement nor was she properly informed of the extent of her future husband’s wealth when she signed the agreement.

Should the 2008 will be found valid, the complaint seeks a declaration that the prenuptial agreement was invalid, allowing Chana Lepman to elect to take a spousal share of 50 percent.

The case is Chana Shoshana Lepman v. Jonathan D. Libber, Esq., et al, 24C15004200.