Disqualification of New York Administrator Requires Specific Evidence of Wrongdoing

New York Administrators and Executors, also known as fiduciaries, have many responsibilities with regard to administering an estate and their relationship with estate beneficiaries. Very often, due to a fiduciary’s acts or failure to act or a conflict of interest, beneficiaries ask the Court to disqualify a fiduciary or to revoke their Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary. However, such a request to the Court requires specific allegations for the Court to actually disqualify a fiduciary.

Such was the case in a recent decision by Bronx County Surrogate Holzman in Estate of Maria Minelli, New York Law Journal August 31, 2010. In Minelli, one of the decedent’s sons asked the Court to revoke the Letters of Administration that had been issued to his sister. The son claimed that his sister had fraudulently transferred real estate that had been the subject of an Article 81 Guardianship proceeding regarding the decedent. The son also claimed that his sister was involved with a fraudulent application to the New York City Department of Social Services.

After reviewing the evidence, the Court denied the son’s application to revoke his sister’s Letters of Administration and found that there was “no evidence to support the bald, conclusory allegations …” Since removal of a fiduciary is a significant act, the Court will always require very specific and clear evidence upon which to base its decision. While the removal of an Administrator or Executor may occur, the Court needs to have a strong foundation to support such relief.

The Minelli case also points to the interaction between Article 81 Guardianship proceedings and the administration of a decedent’s estate. It is common for many issues relating to property transfers and asset ownership to be investigated and determined in a Guardianship proceeding which may occur many years prior to the death of the incapacitated person. Therefore, it is important to fully examine and resolve these matters in the Guardianship case. If property is wrongfully transferred or disposed of at the time of the Guardianship proceeding, it may be too late to resolve these issues years later when the incapacitated person dies.

New York Attorney Jules Martin Haas handles all types of cases, including fiduciary appointment, probate, Wills, estate planning, estate settlement, advanced directives and guardianship matters. If you or anyone you know has a question regarding any of these matters, please call me at (212) 355-2575 for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

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