Something a bit different today - a three part special about, yup, you got it, a Probate Case. And, not just any probate case, but what has to be the poster child of all probate cases. The case we're about to write about - look for Part II on Wednesday and the Finale on Friday has a little bit of just about everything you could ever want in a contested estate. All bad if you're part of it, great if you want to learn what not to do.
The North End
Rita Casoni came to the United States from Parma, Italy as a young child in 1952. Her family moved to the North End of Boston where they became fast friends with their neighbors in the building, the extended Moretti family. They became particularly close to the three siblings, all in their forties.
This is important for later: The Morettis owned an apartment building in the North End. The North End of Boston in the 50’s and 60’s was very much like the old Prince Spaghetti commercial: a commercial filmed in their neighborhood. Everyone knew everybody.
Rita and her husband moved into the Moretti’s building in 1977. She, her husband, their children, and even their young grandchildren were regular visitors with the Morettis. Looking at some of the court filings - still way down the road at this point - it's apparent everyone in the building had an open door policy. The families, in other words, were very close.
Rita was a licensed social worker at the North End Community Health Center, just down the street.
Two of the Moretti siblings died in the late ’80’s, Rita comforted the survivor, Lawrence while taking care of all the funeral arrangements. She made it work.
Soon after, Lawrence, in his late seventies, began to have health problems. Rita pitched in to help. Lawrence was lucky, while he had no remaining family, he had a close group of friends around him, all people he had known for decades. Beside Rita and her extended family, he had Teresa Antonelli who had lived in his building for ages and dropped in all the time. He had a close friend, a nun, Mary Bergazzi, who visited, hung out, and handled all his financial affairs. He had a neighborhood attorney, a man he met at a garden party down the street. The lawyer had handled the estates of Lawrence’s siblings and did all the legal work necessary for the apartment building. He regularly visited Lawrence outside of work. As did Rena Bucchino who lived around the corner and had dropped in on Lawrence regularly for over twenty years.
In 1989, the lawyer drew up a will that left the apartment building to Rita and set up a life estate in one of the apartments for Teresa. Power of attorney was granted to Rita. Lawrence was thrilled that he 'had taken care of his 'great neighborhood family.'
As the court would put it later, “Moretti enjoyed warm relationships with the members of this trusted circle, conversing comfortably with them and joking with them during their visits.”
In 1990, Lawrence suffered some severe health problems. He did not want to go into a nursing home, the group of friends pulled together to help … in every way to keep him in his life-long home.
Rita hired someone she had counseled at the health center, Romano Pagliarani, to move in with Lawrence and see to his everyday needs. She paid out of pocket.
That's when the problems started.
Tune in Wednesday for Part II: Problems.