The settlement of a decedent’s estate involves numerous activities. When a person is appointed as the Administrator or Executor of an estate, one of the most important fiduciary duties is to locate and collect the assets that were owned by the decedent. In some estates this task can be uncomplicated. If the decedent owned bank accounts, real estate or funds in a financial institution which the Executor or Administrator was aware of, the various forms and transfer papers can be prepared to facilitate the liquidation and collection of the assets.
However, there are many estates where the identification and collection of estate assets is not so clear or simple. There may be many difference issues that can delay or prevent recovery. To begin with, it may be difficult to locate or identify estate property. The decedent may have kept poor or confusing records. Also, some assets may be held in on-line accounts or in the name of corporations or other entities in which the decedent had an interest.
Additionally, even where assets can be located, there may be disputes with third parties regarding ownership. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has posted a number of articles regarding the recovery of a decedent’s assets.
An important section of the law concerning obtaining a decedent’s property is Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act section 2103 entitled “Proceeding by fiduciary to discover property withheld or obtain information”. This statute allows an estate fiduciary to obtain information from, and commence legal proceedings against, third parties who may be withholding estate assets. SCPA 2103 is a very valuable provision to help settle an estate. However, it may be very difficult and complicated for the fiduciary to recover the property.
In a recent Queens Estate case entitled in Matter of Estate of Condogeorge, decided on July 1, 2019, Queens Surrogate Peter Kelly dismissed a turnover proceeding commenced by the Queens County Public Administrator. The Public Administrator was claiming that a third party was indebted to the estate pursuant to a promissory note. However, the promissory note that was presented was only a copy and the original could not be located. Also, the terms of the note were incomplete. Since the Public Administrator could not provide any specific facts regarding the whereabouts or loss of the original note, the claim was denied.
I have represented clients in many cases concerning the turn-over of assets to an estate. These matters can be complicated. Executors and Administrators have a duty to identify and collect estate property. Call me now for a free review of your estate issues. We offer reasonable and flexible fee arrangements and personal representation.
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 Nassau County and Brooklyn. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial free consultation.