There are many different proceedings in the Surrogate’s Court. Such matters include the following: probate proceedings, administration proceedings, accounting proceedings, and kinship hearings to name a few. It is not uncommon in these cases for there to be estate litigation or controversies regarding the issues being presented to the Court. For example, when a Last Will and Testament is being offered for probate it is possible that an interested party may contest the Will.
Similarly, when a person dies intestate and someone files an administration proceeding to be appointed as the estate administrator, questions may arise as to the kinship of the decedent. There may even be a necessity to hold a kinship hearing to resolve this question. There may also be a dispute as to which family member should be appointed as the administrator. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has posted many articles regarding probate and administration matters and various types of Surrogate’s Court litigation.
The vast majority of contested and litigated matters in the Court are ultimately settled between the interested parties. New York Civil Practice Law and Rules Section 2104 entitled “Stipulations” contains requirements for stipulations to be enforceable. Settlements are favored by the Court and are usually advantageous to the individuals involved in a case. There are many reasons that favor a negotiated settlement. First and foremost, the outcome of litigation is typically uncertain. Therefore, rather than risk an all or nothing approach, each side ultimately accepts a resolution that provides them with a benefit although somewhat less than what might have been received if the case was ultimately won. This avoids the risk of a total loss. Also, Court proceedings can be exceedingly lengthy. The time for a matter to progress through the judicial system can take years. Sometimes it is better to accept an early resolution rather than wait for an extended period of time to reach an uncertain result. Estate settlement may be delayed.