Sunday, December 2, 1973. I was 19 years old and a junior in college. My father’s older brother, Izzie died. Uncle Izzy was a bachelor who lived his adult life with his older sister, Ella Freedman Klein and her family. He worked for RCA in Camden, New Jersey. He had a factory job, but amassed a small fortune of about $60,000 in savings. He left a will bequeathing his entire estate to Aunt Ella. My father was infuriated. He believed that his brother, who wrote a will during his final illness (he had diabetes his entire adult life), was the victim of undue influence by his sister. He accused his older sister, my Aunt Ella, of greed: of wanting to appropriate the entire estate, when, no doubt — at least according to my father — his brother, Izzy, would have wanted all his siblings to share equally.
My sister’s husband, Eddie talked to a friend, a lawyer, about the family situation. The lawyer recommended that my father and his siblings hire a lawyer to challenge Irwin Freedman’s will. According to the lawyer, my father could make a creditable case of undue influence, invalidating the will, and allowing Uncle Izzy’s estate to pass equally to the surviving brothers and sisters. (My father had five surviving siblings). The lawyer recommended a colleague, Martin Herring, Esq. My father proceeded to corral his brothers and sisters into agreeing to hire Martin Herring to contest the will, at the urging of my brother-in-law. And thus a will contest was had. In the end, Ella Klein settled, agreeing to pay about $1,000 to each of her siblings and keeping the remainder of Uncle Izzy’s estate.
The will contest caused a schism in my father’s family. Aunt Ella became a pariah in the family. It was as if she had been placed under a decree of banishment. My father and his brother and four sisters never spoke to her again. Later, in July 1976, my mother didn’t inform Aunt Ella of my father’s death. Presumably, Aunt Ella learned about her younger brother’s passing in the Jewish Exponent weeks later.