The fundamental goal of estate settlement is to collect the decedent’s assets, pay all claims and administration expenses and distribute the net estate to beneficiaries. New York estate administration attorneys help their clients accomplish these tasks. Both executors and administrators have fiduciary duties to see to it that the decedent’s affairs are properly handled.
It is not always an easy task to determine the nature of the decedent’s assets. In some cases the decedent’s records may be incomplete or unclear as to asset ownership. Other times, problems may arise due to pre-death transfers of assets or third parties trying to hide the decedent’s ownership for their own benefit. Assets may have been transferred before death to another person by the use of a power of attorney or due to undue influence. Proper estate administration requires that the estate’s interest in these items be thoroughly investigated and Court proceedings be commenced to have third parties turn over estate assets.Recent cases decided in the New York Surrogate’s Court provide interesting examples of actions taken to discover estate property and have it returned to the estate fiduciary. In Estate of Yoon, decided by Queens Surrogate Peter Kelly on January 12, 2017, the decedent’s mother was appointed as the estate administrator. The administrator commenced a proceeding under Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (“SCPA”) Section 2103 entitled “Proceeding by fiduciary to discover property withheld or obtain information”. The administrator sought to recover all of the decedent’s property interests in a certain card game that the decedent had developed. After a review of all of the evidence, the Court found that the respondent did not provide any basis for his claim that he was the decedent’s business partner or that he had any independent rights to the card game. The Court granted the administrator’s request that all interests in the card game be turned-over to the estate.
In another case entitled Estate of Tuzzolino, decided by Brooklyn Surrogate Margarita Lopez Torres on February 2, 2017, the decedent’s son asked to receive limited letters of administration so that he could investigate the proprietary of transfers made by his sister using a power of attorney shortly before the death of their mother. SCPA Section 1001 entitled “Order of priority for granting letters of administration” allowed for such appointment. After reviewing the facts, the Court approved the petition. The Court granted the son limited letters of administration to bring a proceeding to turnover and discover property that may have belonged to the decedent’s estate.
Call me now to discuss any concerns you may have regarding the discovery of estate property or estate Court proceedings. I have represented many clients in estate discovery and probate cases. Litigation in the Surrogate’s Court can be complicated and experienced legal guidance is essential.
New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.