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TRUMBULL COUNTY Woman files to contest deceased father's will



Published: Mon, February 17, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- The daughter of a deceased city man is contesting the authenticity of her father's will, which leaves the bulk of his estate to former city treasurer Patricia Leon-Games.

Maria Bernat has filed motions in Trumbull County Probate Court contesting the will of her father, Tadeusz Stefanowicz. A brief hearing was held Thursday, and another hearing has been set for March 17.

According to court filings, the will, which is dated Jan. 24, 2002, leaves $2,500 to Stefanowicz's two sisters, $5,000 to his grandson and $100 to his daughter. The rest of the $257,000 estate was left to Leon-Games.

Neither Leon-Games, who has taken out petitions to run for mayor, nor her attorney, Lou Vennitti, could be reached to comment.

It is not known how Leon-Games knew Stefanowicz, who lived on Oakdale Drive Northwest.

Stefanowicz, 71, died May 9. Family members believed at the time of his death that he did not leave a will, court records state. Atty. Donald R. Ford Jr. was appointed administrator of the estate.

Will found

A few months after Stefanowicz's death, the will was found in the freezer portion of his refrigerator, court records state.

"During a thorough investigation conducted by the undersigned, no Will was initially located at the residence," Ford wrote in a memo filed with the court last month. "However, under questionable circumstances, copies of what is purported to the Last Will and Testament of the Decedent were subsequently found by the undersigned at the residence of the decedent. The undersigned believes that unusual circumstances exist regarding the discovery of the purported Last Will and Testament which raise issues regarding its validity. Further investigation by the undersigned as administrator of the estate raises questions regarding the authenticity of the purported Last Will and Testament."

The memo does not state why Ford is questioning the authenticity of the will. Ford could not be reached.

The memo, however, does state that a typewriter and cartridge at Stefanowicz's residence have been placed in a safety deposit box. Family members want the typewriter to be tested to determine if it was used to type the will.

Ford's memo also states that Leon-Games removed $157,193 from the accounts owned by Stefanowicz and has placed the funds in an estate account, where it can be used only for expenses related to the estate, such as funeral costs or taxes.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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