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Post date: January 5 2001

Ag's Office Preserves Will Of North Country Resident

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his regional office in Plattsburgh successfully intervened to preserve the final wishes of a Clinton County resident whose $40,000 bequest to help a local charity fight respiratory disease was challenged in court.

J. Harold Gerioux of Schuyler Falls, who died in 1996 at the age of 84, directed in his will that one quarter of his estate (approximately $40,000) go to the Clinton County Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Association. Mr. Gerioux's will was contested by relatives who argued that the money should be redistributed to them since the charity ceased to exist some years after he wrote his will in 1966.

In his will, Mr. Gerioux left his entire estate of approximately $160,000 to various charities and not-for-profit organizations.  

Mr. Gerioux was born in Dannemora and worked as a carpenter all his life, mostly in the North Country. After his wife died in the 1960s he lived alone the rest of his life. He had no children.

Staff members at the Attorney General's Plattsburgh Office intervened in the matter in an effort to preserve Mr. Gerioux's intent that a portion of his estate be dedicated to the pursuit of treatment and cures for respiratory disease. The Attorney General's office recommended that Mr. Gerioux's gift should go to the American Lung Association of Northeastern New York for use in Clinton County since it is the successor organization to the defunct Clinton County Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Association.  

State law requires that the Attorney General's office be notified whenever a gift to charity is made in a will or a long-term trust. The law is designed to ensure that gifts to charity go where intended and gives the Attorney General jurisdiction to intervene in probate and other court proceedings on behalf of charitable beneficiaries.

The Gerioux gift became the subject of a lawsuit that was resolved on Dec. 18, 2000 when Clinton County Surrogate Judge Kevin Ryan issued a decision that awarded Mr. Gerioux's bequest to the American Lung Association of Northeastern New York. Judge Ryan agreed with the Attorney General's recommendation, saying "it is clear that the decedent had a general charitable intent since he bequeathed his entire estate to various charities or not-for-profit organizations."  

The matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Glen Michaels under the direction of Robert Glennon, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Plattsburgh Regional Office.