Friend sues estate of former UMA professor over $100,000 check

Posted Dec. 30, 2013, at 5:56 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — John M. Nickerson left his friend Daniel A. Toto Jr. of Vassalboro his car, two gold watches and, according to Toto, a check for $100,000. But Toto has not been able to cash the check since Nickerson died seven months ago because a representative of the estate doesn’t believe it bears the signature of the deceased man.

Toto has sued the personal representative of Nickerson’s estate and KeyBank in Kennebec County Superior Court demanding that he be able to cash the check signed by Nickerson a week before he died, according to Toto’s attorney.

The car and watches for Toto are mentioned in Nickerson’s will. The $100,000 is not.

“Mr. Toto is very distressed that he had to file a suit on this,” David Lipman, the Augusta attorney representing him, said Monday.

Lipman declined to discuss the details of the complaint. The attorney said that Toto and Nickerson were “long-term friends.”

Nickerson, who died May 26 in Augusta at the age of 75, left the bulk of his estate to the University of Maine Foundation to create a scholarship for students studying political science or public administration.

In his will, Nickerson appointed Jeffrey N. Mills, executive director of the foundation, as his personal representative. Mills was named in the lawsuit along with the bank.

A native of Lewiston, Nickerson taught political science and public administration at the University of Maine at Augusta from 1970 to 2012, when he retired.

He was not survived by a spouse, children or other relatives, according to paperwork filed with his will in Kennebec County Probate Court in Augusta.

Jay McCloskey, the Portland attorney representing Mills and the foundation, said Monday that his clients have not received copies of the complaint.

“This is a dispute about the authenticity of the signature on the check,” he said. “This is a matter of contention to be decided by a judge or jury.”

Nickerson’s will, dated March 27, 2013, was filed June 17 in Kennebec County Probate Court, according to information posted on the court website. Toto’s claim was filed Sept. 26 and the claim was disallowed officially Oct. 15. The lawsuit was filed Nov. 25 in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Nickerson left furniture, Persian rugs and sterling silver to his alma mater, the University of Maine, to go into a room on campus “to be used as a ‘quiet’ room so that faculty and staff may have a place to relax away from general campus activities,” his will said. The former professor asked that the remainder of his estate, should it exceed $100,000, be used to create an endowed chair in his name in the political science department at the University of Maine.

The exact value of Nickerson’s estate is not public but is expected to be between $750,000 and $1 million, according to documents filed in probate court in Augusta.

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