New York Executors and Administrators are appointed by the Surrogate's Court to administer a decedent's estate. Typically, there are many aspects to estate settlement including the identification and collection of a decedent's assets, the payment of debts and estate expenses and the payment of income and estate taxes. The final phase of estate administration requires the distribution of the decedent's net estate to beneficiaries either according to the terms of the decedent's Last Will or pursuant to the laws of intestacy.
In this final phase the estate fiduciary is required to provide an accounting of his or her activities so that the beneficiaries can see that the distributions to be made to them are accurate and are in accordance with the terms of the decedent's Last Will and statutory rules. In estate accounting proceedings a beneficiary can examine and object to the conduct of the Executor or Administrator that occurred during the course of estate settlement. Beneficiaries can also dispute proposed distributions based upon differing interpretations or construction of the Last Will or statutory language.
A typical contested Accounting proceeding occurred in Matter of Marianne C. Gourary reported in the New York Law Journal on November 16, 2010. Matter of Gourary involved a 17 million dollar estate where the decedent's wife, Marianne, was the executor and objections to her accounting were filed by their son, John. In deciding motions for summary judgment, Surrogate Kristin Booth Glen of the New York County Surrogate's Court faced a number of issues.
One issue involved a dispute regarding the proper distribution of the decedent's collection of rare books. The parties disputed which provision of the Last Will was intended to dispose of this book collection. The Court found that this dispute should be resolved after a trial.
Another issue involved John's objection to Marianne's use of estate funds for secretarial services. The Court found that Marianne's payment for these services from estate funds was improper and required that she reimburse the estate from her executor's commissions.
As can be seen from Matter of Gourary, Executor and Administrator accounting proceedings can be contentious and complex and can involve many diverse issues. The actual accountings are often lengthy and must be prepared in specific financial schedules as required by the New York Surrogate's Court Procedure Act and Court guidelines.
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.