When a decedent dies his estate is subject to the process of either probate or intestate administration. It is not uncommon that in either situation there may be many issues that require estate litigation in the Surrogate’s Court. These controversies can take many forms such as Will Contests, Kinship Hearings and Contested Accountings.
Estate lawyers are familiar with the Court procedures that are involved with such proceedings. One of the commons aspects of estate disputes is that parties are entitled to discover information from the opposing party and others concerning the issues involved in the case.
This process of discovery involves obtaining both documents and testimony from persons who might have useful information regarding the issues in the case. A number of recent cases decided by the Surrogate’s Courts reflect the manner in which discovery can be helpful in these cases. One of these cases is entitled Matter of Shure and it was the subject of a decision by Manhattan Surrogate Rita Mella on December 2, 2016. In Shure, the co-executor of an estate commenced a proceeding pursuant to Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) 2103 to discover whether assets belonging to the estate had been misappropriated. SCPA 2103 is entitled “Proceeding by fiduciary to discover property withheld or obtain information” and allows an estate fiduciary to obtain document disclosure and testimony to determine if there are assets that should be turned over to the estate. In Shure the co-executor had requested certain bank transaction information from Chase Bank including information regarding internal bank procedures. The Court found that the bank was required to disclose this information although the Court did provide for the imposition of a confidentiality agreement to protect the bank’s internal policies.
In another Surrogate’s Court case a Preliminary Executor sought to obtain passports and border crossing records from the decedent’s alleged spouse. The issues presented in this case arose because the alleged spouse asserted a right of election against the decedent’s Last Will. The estate’s preliminary executor sought the discovery records in connection with the estate’s position that the notice of election was not valid in view of a prenuptial agreement that the spouse allegedly signed. Bronx Surrogate Nelida Malave-Gonzalez, in a decision dated November 14, 2016 in the Estate of Melendez, found that the discovery requests regarding the passport and border crossing records were reasonable and should be provided.
I have represented many individuals in estate litigation cases in which discovery and the disclosure of information was required. If you have a question concerning estate settlement, probate or administration problems, call me now for a free consultation.
New York City probate lawyer, Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years throughout Manhattan and Queens Counties resolve issues relating to estate litigation and settlement in New York Probate proceedings. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.