Manhattan man leaves fortune to building workers, but nephew says he is rightful heir

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Joe Torres reports on the inheritance dispute.

An 80-year-old Manhattan man left his fortune to a doorman in his building in a handwritten will, but now, that man's nephew claims the inheritance belongs to him.

It was a windfall for doorman Eddie Hoti, or so it seemed. Stephen Sullivan Evans, a longtime tenant in his Upper East Side apartment, passed away in September and left the 48-year-old worker his $4.2 million second-floor studio apartment.

It was a generous gift clearly listed in the middle of the handwritten will.

"I think being that he appreciated all the years we served him, especially myself, I think he really appreciated it," Hoti said. "He showed his real true heart by saying these are the guys that took care of me."

But that's where things get complicated. Evans never married and had no children, nor did he date or notarize his will. It was something quickly noticed by his nephew, who suddenly appeared and claimed he was the rightful heir.

"I've been here 28 years, he came once on a Saturday," Hoti said. "One of the staff guys was here. This was about four years ago, and he refused him."

Lawyers for Matthew Evans declined to comment, but in court papers, they said, "the handwritten instrument does not meet the statutory formal requirements of a will under (New York law)." A judge agreed with that argument.

That's bad news not only for doorman Hoti, but also the other staffers at 430 East 56th Street. In the same will, Stephen Evans left them a bank CD and 40,000 shares of ExxonMobil stock valued at $3.2 million.

"I am a million percent sure that that is what he wanted," tenant Fay Lee said. "He wanted whatever he had to go to the people he cared most about, and those are the people who cared most about him."

Hoti says the legal battle is not over, and he'll continue the fight to fulfill the wishes of a simple man who ended his life with a simple request.

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