The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed many of the proceedings that can arise in the Surrogate’s Court such as the Manhattan Surrogate’s Court and Nassau Surrogate’s Court. Each of the counties in New York State has its own Surrogate’s Court.
The various proceedings include Probate Proceedings, Intestate Administration Proceedings, Accounting Proceedings, Kinship Proceedings, and various other Miscellaneous Proceedings such as proceedings to revoke the appointment of a fiduciary.
In order for the Court to determine the issues in the cases that are filed, the Court must be certain that all parties interested in the case have received a proper notice and have had an opportunity to appear before the Court and protect their interests. Very often, the Notice that a party receives is a Citation or an Order and Show Cause. These Notices must be properly served on a party and provide information as to the date, time and place of the Court hearing.
It is not uncommon in many cases that one of the parties may not be legally capable to protect their interests or appear in Court. An infant (i.e., someone under age 18) or a person who is incapacitated cannot act for his or her own welfare. When these situations arise, there are a number of avenues that can be followed so that the incompetent party can participate in the Court proceeding.
With regard to an infant, he or she may appear by a Court appointed guardian of his or her property. See Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) Section 402. This section also provides that an incapacitated person may appear by a Court appointed guardian. Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law provides an extensive procedure for the appointment of a Guardian of the person and property for an incapacitated person.
When an infant or other disabled person has not had a Guardian appointed to represent them or when the Court feels that such Guardian cannot adequately represent them, the Court can appoint a Guardian ad Litem. SCPA 403 provides for the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem selected by the Court but also provides a procedure whereby the Guardian ad Litem can be nominated by an infant over 14 years old or his parent or guardian. Of course, such nomination is subject to approval and appointment by the Court.
In a recent case entitled a Will of Nanaline Duke, decided by Manhattan Surrogate Nora Anderson on November 28, 2012 and reported in the New York Law Journal on December 10, 2012, the Court allowed the family members to nominate the Guardian ad Litem.
Typically, the Guardian ad Litem will act as the representative of the person under disability and protect his or her interest in the Court case. SCPA 405 provides the procedure for the Guardian ad Litem to be paid for services rendered.
Estate Litigation involves many complex issues and procedures. As a New York Estate Lawyer I have represented many clients where the Court has appointed a Guardian ad Litem to represent a party’s interest. I have also acted as the attorney for Guardians who are acting on behalf of incapacitated individuals. For example, in a situation where a decedent dies intestate and his or her sole heir is incapacitated, I have petitioned the Court to appoint the sole heir as an Article 81 Guardian who then had the authority to act as the Administrator of the decedent’s estate.