New York Estate Accounting Proceedings Allow Discovery of Relevant Documents

The settlement of an estate in New York can be divided into three main categories. The first category or phase is the appointment of the fiduciary. When a decedent has a Last Will, then the Will needs to be filed with the Court and admitted to probate. Probate proceedings in the Surrogate’s Court can be contentious and involve Will Contests.   Once a Will is admitted to probate, an executor is appointed and the terms of the Will control the ultimate estate distributions.

When a decedent does not have a Will, then an Administration proceeding must be filed to have an Administrator appointed for the estate. The estate of a decedent who dies intestate (without a Will) is distributed to the decedent’s distributees (next of kin). The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has posted many articles concerning Probate and Administration proceedings.

The second category or phase of an estate involves the collection of the decedent’s assets and the payment of estate expenses and claims by the fiduciary. This is the time when all of the estate assets must be found and collected by the executor or administrator. The fiduciary also needs to resolve all matters concerning the estate’s claims and taxes.

Finally, the third category or phase to an estate concerns settling the account of the fiduciary. All parties who are interested in the estate have a right to receive an accounting of the transactions engaged in by the fiduciary. This account will have a list of all the assets received, the income received and all expenses and other claims that were paid. The accounting provides a means by which an estate beneficiary can determine whether the shares of the estate that the fiduciary is going to pay out is fair and accurate.

When there are disputes regarding the transactions that are listed in the accounting, these matters need to be resolved in the Surrogate’s Court. These types of disputes are known as contested accountings. In the course of contested accounting proceedings, an Objectant is entitled to obtain copies and examine the papers that reflect or substantiate the information contained in the accounting. These papers include financial accounts such as bank statements. The Objectant can send a document demand to the fiduciary and request copies or an examination of these papers. However, any request for documents needs to be relevant to the transactions that the fiduciary is reporting. The Objectant must also seek specific records.

In a recent case decided by Suffolk County Surrogate’s Court John Czygier, Jr., on December 15, 2017, entitled Estate of Dutton, the Court disallowed a number document demands from an Objectant because the demands were either not relevant or over-broad.

I have represented fiduciaries and beneficiaries in numerous Accounting Cases. If you have a question or concern regarding an estate accounting or breach of fiduciary duty, call me now for a free review.   New York Probate Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to Probate, Administration and estate settlement throughout New York City including Brooklyn and Queens. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.


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