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New York Real Estate Litigation May Involve a Decedent’s Estate Interest

New York Estates and Trusts are comprised of various types of assets. Very often these assets include real estate in the form of a single family home or commercial property. When an Executor, Administrator or Trustee has the responsibility of protecting and handling real estate interests, the job of the Fiduciary can become very complicated.

In the most simple case, the Fiduciary must protect the property which means the real estate must be secured and it should be covered by insurance, if possible. Additionally, the property may contain tenants or third-party occupants whose identity must be determined along with any leases or rights of possession such occupants may have. In many instances it will be impractical to distribute the estate without selling the real property. The decedent’s Last Will or Intestate Distribution may require that many individuals receive a share of the property value which cannot be accomplished without liquidating the property into cash funds.

Also, the property may be subject to a mortgage or other liens or expenses that necessitate its sale in order that these debts or obligations be paid. Another consideration is the cost of maintaining the property and paying maintenance fees or property taxes. Such costs may require that the real property be sold rather than requiring the decedent’s estate to pay these continuing costs.

When dealing with real estate an estate may also become involved in litigation that affects the property. New York Estate Lawyers often have to represent their Fiduciary clients in connection with this type of Estate Litigation. A recent case decided by the New York Court of Appeals is an example of the problems an estate can face with Real Estate Litigation. White v. Farrell was decided by the Court of Appeals on March 21, 2013 and reported in the New York Law Journal on March 22, 2013. In this case Paula and Leonard White had signed a contract to purchase real estate from the Farrells. However, after the contract was signed, the White’s decided that they wanted to cancel the contract because they claimed that drainage issues affecting the property was not fully disclosed to them. The Farrells refused to cancel the contract and ultimately claimed that the White’s defaulted by refusing to close title. During the course of the litigation Leonard White died and so the litigation continued and affected the interest he had in the proceedings. It appears that Paula was appointed as Executor of Leonard’s estate and represented the estate’s interest in the case. The Court of Appeals ultimately refused to grant summary judgment for the Farrells but did determine that the measure of damages suffered by the Farrells due to the Leonard’s breach of the Contract “is the difference, if any, between the Contract price and the fair market value of the property at the time of the breach.”

As can be seen from White, there are many issues that can impact Estate Settlement and the interests of a decedent. In many instances, I have represented Executors and Administrators where real estate is an estate asset. Such estates require that the Fiduciary take a very active role in managing the real property and protecting the estate’s interests especially where the property is the subject of claims and is affected by ongoing litigation.


As a New York City probate lawyer, I have helped many clients over the past 30 years throughout the Manhattan and Queens Counties resolve issues relating to estate administration and settlement in New York Probate and Administration proceedings. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.

Jules Martin Haas provides his clients and members of the community with a free monthly e-newsletter which contains articles covering a variety of legal topics including estate planning, financial matters and real estate. If you wish to be placed on the e-newslist, simply e-mail me at jules.haas@verizon.net. You can cancel receiving the newsletter at anytime.

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