Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Test of Will Husband Finds That Wife Left Him Penniless

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Test of Will Husband Finds That Wife Left Him Penniless

Article excerpt

After about 60 years of hard work, John Zucha of Belleville amassed a fortune worth more than $2.5 million, including three farms and 20 rental properties. But when his wife died last April, Zucha discovered that he didn't even have title to the home he was living in.

Helen Zucha, his wife of 47 1/2 years, had changed her will, leaving everything to a sister, Mary Janosky, and a nephew, Mary's son, Thomas Janosky, 49.

John Zucha, 79, now lives on his $700 monthly Social Security check.

The will, dated Oct. 21, 1993, leaves John Zucha nothing except personal items from the couple's home in the 300 block of Avery Hill Drive in Belleville and any vehicles titled in both their names.

"I was shocked," Zucha said last week, as he prepared to give a statement to attorneys in one of two suits that challenge the will and property ownership by his late wife's nephew and sister.

Throughout the couple's marriage, Helen Zucha handled the finances, he said, including what he earned in 20 years when he worked in a packing house and the 20 or so years when he operated Johnnie's Square Deal Auto, a repair shop and gas station at 5505 North Belt West.

John Zucha worked long hours, often seven days a week, until he retired in 1987. The marriage had its ups and downs, he says, but through it all, "I trusted her."

A lawyer not involved in the case said it is unlikely the will can override Illinois law, which generally guarantees any surviving spouse a third of a couple's estate.

Zucha's problem is that ownership of most of the real estate and stocks that he and his wife owned had already been transferred when Helen Zucha died.

Court records show that his attorney, Julia B. Welch, has engaged in a legal battle to get everything that was bought with money that John Zucha earned from wages or from the business he operated with his wife included in the couple's estate.

Besides challenging the will, Welch has filed a separate "miscellaneous remedies" suit aimed at restoring what she argues is rightful ownership to John Zucha. …

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