Executors and Administrators in New York have many fiduciary duties with respect to settling an estate. Most estate fiduciaries are close family members or friends of a decedent. Typically, a person will nominate a person that they know and trust to be the Executor of their estate. Since the estate fiduciary rarely has experience in administering an estate, the Estate Lawyer is heavily relied upon to provide guidance and to implement the necessary procedures to protect the interests of the estate and the estate beneficiaries.
One of the primary duties to be performed by the fiduciary is to find and collect estate assets. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published earlier posts talking about this area of estate settlement. If an executor or administrator does not fulfill his obligations to safeguard assets, he may be found to have breached a fiduciary duty.There are provisions in the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) that help someone who is administering an estate to locate and gain control over estate assets from third parties who may have such items in their possession. SCPA Section 2103 is entitled “Proceeding by fiduciary to discover property withheld or obtain information”. This section of the estate law gives a fiduciary a means by which the Court can direct a third-party to provide the fiduciary with information regarding assets that may belong to the estate. The executor or administrator will be allowed to obtain documents from the third-party or others and also to take testimony to determine if estate property is being withheld. If the fiduciary finds that there are assets that should be turned over to estate, the Court can hold a trial regarding the issue of rightful ownership. Such proceedings are allowed by SCPA Section 2104 entitled “Inquiry; trial and decree”.
I have represented many fiduciaries in connection with turnover proceedings pursuant to SCPA 2103 and 2104. It is important for a fiduciary to pursue estate assets and it is very important to have an experienced Estate Lawyer in New York to assist with these matters.
A recent matter decided by Brooklyn Surrogate Margarita Lopez Torres is a typical example of the use of the turn-over statutes referred to above. In Estate of Coiro, decided on April 27, 2016, the estate executor commenced a proceeding under SCPA 2104 to have a respondent turn over proceeds from a Chase Bank account and US Treasury bill. The facts presented were that the bank account had been in the name of the decedent at the time of death. The respondent had used a power of attorney to add his name to the bank account the day after the decedent died. A Power of Attorney ceases to be effective after the death of the principal.
In the Coiro case the respondent sought to dismiss the proceeding by claiming that the statute of limitations had run out and thus was a bar to the proceeding. After reviewing the relevant statutes, the Court found that the statute of limitations did not prevent the case from moving forward and refused to dismiss the proceeding.
If you have a question or issue regarding estate litigation or the collection or protection of estate assets call me now for a free discussion. These matters are important when dealing with decedent’s affairs. I have handled estate Surrogate’s Court cases throughout all New York City Counties as well as Nassau, Westchester and Suffolk Counties.
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 Manhattan and Brooklyn. 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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