One of the responsibilities of a fiduciary, whether an Executor, Trustee or Administrator, is to discover, administer and protect the assets of an estate or trust. When assets are in the form of bank accounts or other financial funds, these items can be transferred into a new estate or trust account and controlled thereafter by the fiduciary.
Many trusts and estates own different kinds of assets. One of the most valuable assets is real estate. This item may be in the form of residential property such as a single family home or even a condominium. There may also be vacant land or commercial property. A very common problem faced by a fiduciary is that a third party is occupying the estate or trust real estate without the right to remain there. Such improper occupancy can cause problems with the management of the real estate since access to the property may be restricted. Also, the presence of an authorized occupant may interfere with the sale of the real estate or lower its market value.
In these situations, the fiduciary usually can bring eviction type proceedings in the Surrogate’s Court or the appropriate landlord-tenant Court. I have represented fiduciaries and occupants in these eviction cases on many occasions. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog contains many posts dealing with real estate matters and also evictions.
If the eviction case is commenced in a landlord-tenant Court such as the New York City Civil Court, there are many statutory and procedural requirements that must be adhered to in order for the eviction of the occupant to be successful. A recent case decided by Queens Judge Clinton Gutherie of the Queens Civil Court on April 20, 2020 entitled Hilda Townsend Revocable Trust v. Johnson provides an interesting example of issues that can arise in such proceedings.
In Townsend, a Holdover Proceeding was started to evict certain individuals from a property that was owned by a Revocable Trust. This type of trust is also known as a Living Trust or Grantor Trust. The respondent occupants sought to have the case dismissed by claiming that the initial petition papers did not include necessary parties that lived in the premises. After reviewing the facts on this issue, the Court refused to dismiss the proceeding. However, after looking at the Trust’s Court papers, the Court found that the eviction case was improperly commenced in the name of the Trust. The Court noted that Estates, Powers and Trusts Law section 7-2.1 entitled “Extent of trustees estate,” vested the legal title to the property in the Trustees, and consequently, the Trust itself had no authority to commence the Court proceeding. Since the Holdover Proceeding failed to name the Trustees as the petitioner and the Court papers were only signed by the attorneys without any indication of their authority to do so, the Court dismissed the eviction case.
As can be seen from Townsend, acting as a Trustee involves a lot of responsibility and can require estate litigation in other Courts as well as the Surrogate’s Court. Call Me Now for a free confidential review of your estate or trust issue. We provide reasonable and flexible fee arrangements and personal representation.
New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 40 years resolve issues relating to guardianship and probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau and Suffolk County. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial free consultation.