There have been numerous posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog which describe the basic process to settle an estate. A brief review of these facts is always helpful:
1. First it is essential to determine whether the decedent died leaving a Last Will or without a Will (intestate). The existence or non-existence of a Will determines whether the procedure to be followed in Court involves the probate process or intestate administration.
2. Once the process to be followed is ascertained, an appropriate petition and other papers need to be prepared and filed with the Surrogate’s Court.
3. After all necessary estate papers have been filed with the Surrogate’s Court and the Court has approved the filing, an Executor or Administrator will be appointed. The fiduciary is granted Letters Testamentary in the case of a probate and Letters of Administration when a decedent dies intestate.
4. Once appointed, the Executor or Administrator begins the process of estate settlement by collecting the decedent’s assets and paying the decedent’s debts and obligations along with estate administration expenses.
5. The final stage of the estate is providing a payment of the net estate funds and assets to the beneficiaries. Typically, the fiduciary will prepare an accounting of the assets collected and payments made and provide this accounting statement to the beneficiaries so that they can review the basis for the distribution being made to them.There are occasions when the executor or administrator fails or refuses to provide an accounting and finalize the estate. In such situations the aggrieved beneficiary can file a petition with the Surrogate’s Court to compel a fiduciary to provide an accounting. A number of earlier posts in this blog have discussed Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act Section 2205 entitled “Compulsory Account and related relief on a court’s own initiative or on petition; who may petition”.
This section of the estate law can be very helpful to a beneficiary who want to receive their share of an estate. However, while the Court generally requires the estate executor or administrator to account, there are times when the Surrogate may refuse to require an accounting. In the recent case of Estate of Jaray decided on November 28, 2016, Manhattan Surrogate Nora Anderson refused to grant an alleged creditor’s petition to compel an accounting. The Court found that the creditor had no standing to demand an accounting since the underlying basis for the creditor’s claim was rejected in another Court action. The estate had been found not to be obligated to pay the creditor. Thus, the creditor did not have a right to an accounting.
I have represented many individuals in compulsory accounting proceedings. Once the Court compels the fiduciary to account, the beneficiary needs to carefully review the accounting and determine whether or not to file Objections to the Account. If you have a question regarding an estate accounting, call me now for a free discussions and review of your issue.
New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to estate accounting issues throughout New York City including Manhattan and Queens. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.