When a fiduciary is appointed to administer a decedent’s estate, one of the main objectives is to collect and protect a decedent’s assets. Thus, Administrators and Executors typically search through the decedent’s papers and records to learn about the decedent’s financial estate.
In most cases it is rather straight forward to find bank account statements, brokerage accounts and real estate titles. However, as New York City estate lawyers know, there are many instances when determining and collecting a decedent’s valuable assets can be very difficult.The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has posted many articles describing the discovery procedures available to an executor or administrator to locate estate financial items. Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) Section 2103 entitled “Proceeding by fiduciary to discover property withheld or obtain information” allows a fiduciary to take deposition testimony of third parties and obtain documents to find potential estate assets and have them turned over to the estate.
The SCPA 2103 procedure requires a fiduciary to file a Petition with the Court that is then reviewed. If the Court finds that the Petition is a valid assertion of an estate’s interest in an item possibly owned by a decedent, the Court will issue an Order to allow the third party to be examined. While the Surrogate’s Courts are very liberal in allowing discovery proceedings, there are times when the Court may disallow or dismiss the discovery proceeding. The person against whom the discovery is sought is given an opportunity to oppose the Petition for discovery.
In a recent Queens Estate case, Queens Surrogate Peter J. Kelly dismissed an SCPA 2103 discovery petition. The decision was in the Estate of Spira and was decided on May 23, 2016. In Spira, the estate Administrator commenced an SCPA 2103 proceeding against two corporations, one of which was based in Japan. The corporations sought to dismiss the proceeding based upon a claim of lack of jurisdiction. The Court, after reviewing the facts, did dismiss the petition. The Court found that the Order to attend the discovery proceeding was not properly served. The Court also found that the petitioner did not demonstrate that the local Queens Surrogate’s Court had jurisdiction over the corporation based in Japan.
As is demonstrated by Spira, the discovery and turnover of estate assets can be very complicated and time consuming. Also, the results of these proceedings can be uncertain. However, an SCPA 2103 discovery and turnover case can be a very effective method to obtain the return of estate assets that were wrongfully taken by a third party.
I have represented many individuals in connection with estate turnover cases. If you have a question or issue regarding estate assets or estate administration call me now for a free review. New York Trust and Estate attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in Surrogate’s Court and estate administration in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn throughout the past 30 years. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about Estate Settlement, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.