A New York Fiduciary is generally required to provide a full accounting of his or her financial transactions. Fiduciaries include estate Executors and Administrators, Trustees and Guardians of incapacitated persons. The information set forth in the accounting can be simple or complex depending upon the nature of the estate or trust that is the subject of the accounting.
The Surrogate's Court and the other Courts that have jurisdiction over the matters that are the subject of the accounting are guided by standard rules regarding the accounting process. For example, Article 22 of the Surrogate's Court Procedure Act contains numerous sections that delineate the accounting process. Surrogate's Court Official Form No. 12 provides the standard format for an "Account of Executors and Administrators". Despite the variety of fiduciaries that are subject to these rules, in virtually all instances the accountings require that the fiduciary describe in detail: (i) the assets or items that were received: (ii) the payments or distributions that were made; and (iii) the balance of assets that remain on hand. The information contained in the numerous accounting Schedules can be extensive. Accounting for many types of equity holdings such as stocks and bonds particularly where sales, stock splits, mergers or other transactions occur can result in very lengthly and quite complex transaction descriptions.
Accountings will disclose additional financial information including a computation of fiduciary commissions, and the payment of estate and income taxes. The important aspect of the accounting process is that the beneficiaries of the estate or trust are entitled to receive and review the accounting. Any objectionable items can be brought to the attention of the Court overseeing the accounting process and rectified if appropriate. The accounting process is also helpful to the fiduciary who is given the opportunity to disclose all of his or her activities and make distributions of assets and obtain an approval of his or her actions.
Accountings can be informal, meaning that the parties can all agree and accept the accounting without formal Court proceedings. On the other hand, formal accounting proceedings require that the accounting be filed with the Court and approved or finalized through formal Court proceedings including discovery and hearings or a trial.
New York Probate Attorney Jules M. Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to estate and Article 81 Guardianship Accountings and estate settlement. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.