New York Breach of Fiduciary Duty or Misconduct Can Result in Removal of a Fiduciary

Estates and Trusts are administered by fiduciaries. The Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) section 103 (21) identifies persons that are fiduciaries and includes such office holders as Executors, Administrators and Trustees. Such persons are obligated to act in accordance with duties and responsibilities as set out in the New York statutes such as the SCPA, the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) and the rulings of the various courts such as the Surrogate’s Court.

New York estate lawyers are familiar with provisions of the law that permit the Surrogate’s Court to remove a fiduciary when he breaches his obligations or is otherwise unfit to serve in such capacity. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published numerous posts regarding this issue which is of utmost importance in estate and trust administration. Initially, reference should be made to a number of laws in this area. SCPA section 711 is entitled “Suspension, modification or revocation of letters or removal for disqualification or misconduct.” This statute provides a number of grounds for the removal of a fiduciary which include dishonesty or otherwise being unfit to serve in such capacity. Another statute that deals with these matters is SCPA section 719 which is entitled “In what cases letters may be suspended, modified or revoked, or a lifetime trustee removed or his powers suspended or modified, without process.”Recent cases decided by the Courts present interesting examples of situations where a fiduciary was removed.  Matter of Terzani was decided by Dutchess County Surrogate James Pagones on November 26, 2014.  In Terzani, the Court removed the decedent’s wife as temporary administrator of the decedent’s estate.  The Court found that the wife had failed to diligently pursue a wrongful death claim regarding the decedent’s death.  The Court also found that the wife, who had been estranged from the decedent, exhibited hostility towards the decedent’s parents who were potential beneficiaries and had failed to properly secure and dispose of the decedent’s personal effects.

In another recent decision, in a case entitled Matter of Meyer, Manhattan Surrogate Nora Anderson removed a co-Trustee.  Meyer was decided on November 25, 2014 and concerned a trustee who had failed to file trust tax returns for many years.

I have represented clients in many proceedings regarding the removal of a fiduciary.  Executors, Administrators and Trustees are required to abide by their responsibilities and they have many duties including the preservation of assets and fair dealing with estate and trust beneficiaries.  Call me if you are a beneficiary or fiduciary and have any issues or questions regarding administering an estate or a trust.

New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in New York Trusts and Estates matters and Surrogate’s Court proceedings throughout the past 30 years in New York, including Queens and Nassau Counties. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a New York Estate, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 or email:, for an initial consultation.

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