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A very common complaint that New York Estate Lawyers hear is that an estate beneficiary has not received his share of a decedent’s estate. Typically, the beneficiary, who may be a legatee under a Last Will or a distributee in an intestate administration, has been waiting for years to receive a payment. Sometimes all efforts to contact or receive a response from the Executor or Administrator have failed.

In earlier posts, it has been discussed that a fiduciary must account for his actions. The accounting that is provided to estate or trust beneficiaries includes a list of all assets and income received, all expenditures that have been paid and all expenses or claims that are still outstanding. Continue reading →

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When a person dies intestate (without a Last Will), his estate is distributed according to the laws of intestacy. New York estate lawyers know that Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 4-1.1 provides the list of relatives who have priority to receive a share of the decedent’s estate. Many articles appear in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog discussing intestate inheritance issues.

At the top of the list of those entitled to inherit pursuant to EPTL 4-1.1 is a decedent’s spouse and children. However, there are circumstances where a spouse’s right might be extinguished through disqualification. Some of these situations have been discussed in earlier posts. EPTL 5-1.2 is entitled “Disqualification as surviving spouse”. Under this section a spouse may be disqualified to received a share in a number of circumstances such as intestacy and asserting a right to elect against a Will. Continue reading →

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The probate process in New York can be very complex. When a person dies and leaves a Last Will and Testament it is necessary to probate the decedent’s Will to have an Executor appointed to administer the estate. There have been many articles published in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog providing information regarding probate issues.

The presentation of a petition to the Surrogate’s Court which seeks probate of a Will essentially asks the Court to validate the Will and appoint an Executor. The Court issues Letters Testamentary to the appointed Executor. Continue reading →

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The Surrogate’s Courts in New York are familiar to most persons as the Court where Wills can be probated and Executors and Administrators appointed to handle estate affairs. While it is accurate that the primary issues presented to the Court are the appointment of estate fiduciaries, there are a plethora of issues that are involved in estate administration that require Court intervention.

A New York City Estate Lawyer is familiar with the many provisions in the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law and the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act that provide for accessibility to the Surrogate to determine issues regarding estate affairs. For example, SCPA 2103 is entitled “Proceeding by fiduciary to discover property withheld or obtain information”. This provision allows a fiduciary to commence a Court proceeding against a third party to recover the decedent’s property that is being withheld from the estate.  SCPA 2105 allows a proceeding to be filed to compel a fiduciary to deliver property that is claimed by a third party. Continue reading →

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The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed in earlier posts the variety of issues concerning the transfer of a decedent’s assets. One of the most common and valuable estate assets is the decedent’s home. A person’s home can be in the nature of real property such as a single family home. However, New Yorkers are very familiar with living in the setting of an apartment in a high-rise building. Apartments can be as valuable and the subject of controversy as separate residential realty. A decedent may have been living in a cooperative apartment or even in a residential building where he was the tenant in a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled unit. These different forms of property rights can present unique problems to be resolved during estate settlement.

In the case of a cooperative apartment, the decedent’s interests may have been bequeathed in a Last Will to family members or may need to be sold to a third party purchaser.  In each instance, the general rule in a cooperative building is that a transfer of the Unit cannot occur without approval of the cooperative board of directors.  In many cases, such approval is not  easily obtained since the cooperative board is given broad discretion to approve or disapprove of the transfer. Continue reading →

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A New York estate lawyer is familiar with the numerous problems that can arise regarding the administration of a decedent’s estate. Sometimes these matters are the result of actions or relationships that the decedent was involved with prior to death. The estate executor or administrator has a fiduciary obligation to resolve these disputes. Assets of the decedent must be protected and creditors claims must be satisfied or disposed of.

A recent post at hollywoodreporter.com on February 9, 2015 by Austin Siegemund-Braka reports about another chapter in the settlement of the estate of the late pop star Michael Jackson. The post, entitled “Hollywood Docket: Michael Jackson’s Ex-Manager Revives Neverland Ranch Dispute”, relates the details regarding a claim by the pop-star’s manager for unpaid commissions earned during Michael Jackson’s lifetime as well as a claim for a fee for securing a loan on Michael Jackson’s Neverland property to prevent its foreclosure. The estate executors opposed the claims and both parties had filed lawsuits in 2012 that were put on hold pending other related proceedings. The Court has now lifted the stay to allow the issue regarding the Neverland loan to move forward. Continue reading →

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It is very common that a person who dies or is incapacitated receives health care and services that are paid for by government agencies in the form of Medicaid. As New York estate lawyers often encounter, a decedent who had been ill and unable to pay for his care through private insurance or personal funds probably would have had his care paid through Medicaid. Medicaid payments can cover persons who live at home or who reside in nursing homes or other facilities. Particularly where a person has had a serious illness with extensive hospitalization and nursing home stays, the expenses that are paid by Medicaid can be quite large. Under various state laws and rules, Medicaid is entitled to be reimbursed for its expenditures. This reimbursement typically occurs after a person dies if there are assets in his estate. It may be that the decedent passed away owning a home or other assets but had been receiving Medicaid coverage during his life.

It is the fiduciary obligation of an Executor or Administrator to make sure that all of the decedent’s debts and the claims against the estate are satisfied. Thus, the estate fiduciary is required to satisfy a claim for reimbursement that is asserted by the local Medicaid authority. Also, in the event the estate Executor or Administrator is aware that the decedent may have been receiving medicaid benefits, it is important to obtain information regarding this claim before distributing estate assets. Once the assets are distributed to beneficiaries, the Medicaid authority may attempt to obtain payment of the claim against the fiduciary personally and assert that the fiduciary should have known about the claim before he paid the beneficiaries. Estate settlement can be a very complicated process and the collection of assets and payment of a decedent’s debts often require the guidance of an experienced estate attorney. Continue reading →

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Estate planning in New York is an important consideration for many reasons. In addition to designating the manner in which a persons assets are to be distributed, an important aspect of planning is the nomination of an estate Executor. By creating a Last Will a testator can name the persons who are to act as Executors and also Successor Executors, if needed. Obviously, selecting the individuals that you trust and have confidence in to carry out the terms and intentions of the Will provisions provides the essence of insuring that a plan for estate settlement is accomplished.

When a person dies intestate, or without a Will, his estate becomes subject to the rules and laws concerning an Administration proceeding rather than the probate process. The Administration proceeding is focused on the appointment of an estate Administrator. Since there is no Will that nominates a fiduciary, the proceeding is controlled by Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) 1001 which is entitled “Order of priority for granting letters of administration”.  The statute provides the list of the decedent’s next of kin who have the right to be appointed as the estate Administrator. According to the statute, the decedent’s spouse has priority, then children, grandchildren, the decedent’s parents and then brothers and sisters. While the statute provides an orderly process for the appointment of an Administrator, the persons who have priority may not have been the first choice of the decedent if he had named an Executor in a Last Will. Continue reading →

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Estate attorneys in New York are familiar with the many statutes and rules regarding the ownership of property.  One of the fundamental aspects involved in estate planning is knowing and understanding the manner in which a testator owns his assets.  As examined in many previous posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, a Last Will typically only controls the disposition of assets that a decedent owns in his name alone.  Property interests that are held in joint tenancy or with a designated beneficiary such as a life insurance policy pass directly to the surviving joint owner or beneficiary upon a person’s death and do not become part of the estate subject to disposition by the terms of the Last Will.

In particular, in the case of real estate that is owned by a husband and wife, New York law creates a special aspect of ownership called a tenancy by the entirety.  This type of ownership essentially provides that when one of the spouses dies, the surviving spouse automatically becomes the sole and absolute owner of the property provided the parties remain married at the time of death. In view of these property rights, lifetime dispositions of one spouse’s interest in the property cannot interfere with or prevent the survivor’s right to become the sole owner upon the other parties death. Continue reading →

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When an individual dies it seems more than apparent that the decedent no longer has the ability to act on his own behalf. Likewise, others cannot interact or engage in actions that affect the deceased person. It is for that reason that the New York estate laws provide for the appointment of an Executor or Administrator who has the legal authority and power to act in the place and stead of the decedent.

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog contains many posts discussing the duties and powers of estate fiduciaries. As explained, an Executor is appointed when a Last Will is admitted to probate. An Administrator is appointed when a person dies intestate. The Estates, Powers and Trusts Law and the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act contain the statutory provisions that allow for the appointment of the fiduciary. Continue reading →

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