New York Real Estate Ownership Can Complicate Estate Settlement

The estate of a New York decedent contains many different types of assets. One of the most important items of ownership in an estate is real estate. These interests commonly constitute one of the estate’s most valuable assets. Since real estate holdings are so valuable and because the laws concerning real estate interests can be complex, estate executors and administrators can be engulfed by the need to resolve property issues during estate administration.

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has had many posts discussing real estate issues that have arisen during the course of estate proceedings. One very common example of these issues occurs when the decedent dies and his residential home is also occupied by other family members. While the other family members have no title interest in the property, they often do not want to vacate the home where they lived with the decedent for many years. In these cases the estate fiduciary needs to have the family members move so that the property can be sold and the proceeds distributed to estate beneficiaries. When these differing interests collide, the result is that estate litigation in the Housing Court or Surrogate’s Court is needed to resolve the dispute.I have represented many executors and administrators in situations where it was necessary to obtain Court orders to evict family members or tenants so that the estate property could be secured and sold. As can be imagined, estate contests in the Housing Court or Surrogate’s Court can be unpleasant but often cannot be avoided. Executors and Administrators have a fiduciary duty to protect estate assets and to sell same if required to pay the decedent’s debts and distribute the decedent’s assets to estate beneficiaries.

A recent case decided by Manhattan Surrogate Rita Mella on August 11, 2015 entitled Matter of Brauner provides a good example of the complicated problems presented by real estate ownership. In Brauner, the decedent owned two parcels of property in Brooklyn. The decedent was survived by two children, one of whom was the Administrator of the estate. The Surrogate was presented with a petition by the Administrator to evict her brother from the properties and for Court authority to sell them.

The Court found that it was in the best interest of the estate to allow the sale of the properties to satisfy estate debts and to provide for the distribution of the net estate assets to the beneficiaries. The Court also ruled that the sale transactions were subject to the prior approval of the Court and that if the brother refused to move out of the property he would be evicted.

Most of the time eviction proceedings occur in the Landlord-Tenant Court which is the Housing Part of the New York City Civil Court. I have been involved in many landlord-tenant matters representing both property owners and tenants. However, when eviction issues arise in connection with estate administration, the Surrogate’s Court has the authority to review these matters and can provide for an eviction. The Surrogate’s Courts are usually concerned with resolving all types of issues that can effect the proper administration of a decedent’s estate.

I have represented clients regarding a variety of complex issues relating to estate ownership of real estate, co-op apartments and condominium units. If you have any questions regarding an estate or real estate issue, call me now for a free review of your matter.

New York City estate attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in Probate and Estate Administration proceedings in Manhattan and Westchester Counties throughout the past 30 years. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a Last Will or other aspects of Probate or Estate Administration, 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 You can cancel receiving the newsletter at anytime.

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