New York Estate Litigation Can Complicate Estate Settlement

Controversies are not uncommon during the course of administering an estate. New York estate lawyers are familiar with the Surrogate’s Court procedures involved with such matters. Executors and Administrators have the fiduciary obligation to protect the interests of the estate in connection with all disputes regarding the decedent. A few recent cases highlight the different types of lawsuits that an estate may be involved with.

Matter of Elena Duke Benedict  involved the determination of the validity of a claim against an estate.  In this matter, trustees of certain trusts created by the decedent asserted that the decedent’s estate owed the trusts monies that were borrowed from the trusts by the decedent during her lifetime. The claim was based upon promissory notes that were signed by the decedent. Although the executor opposed the claim, in a decision dated May 8, 2014 Westchester Surrogate Anthony Scarpino found that the claim was valid and enforceable against the estate.

Another example of litigation affecting an estate was reported by Eriq Gardner at the on May 13, 2014. A post entitled “Michael Jackson’s Former Publicist Can’t Revive $44 Million Lawsuit”, relates that the pop star’s former publicist attempted to sue Michael Jackson’s estate based upon alleged new evidence contained in a recently discovered letter found in a box of files. After review, the Court refused to allow the publicist’s case to go forward.

The above examples all point to the fact that estate fiduciaries are regularly faced with lawsuits and disputes which they have an obligation to resolve. I have represented numerous Executors and Administrators regarding various types of estate controversies including monetary claims, Will contests and kinship hearings. The assistance and guidance of an Estate Attorney in all these matters is important to protect the decedent’s interests and his beneficiaries. Litigation in the Surrogate’s Court has many of the same aspects as in the civil trial courts such as document production, depositions, motions for relief such as summary judgment and trials. However, some procedures are specific to estates practice such as examinations pursuant to Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act 1404 which allows discovery from the attesting witnesses to a Last Will, and the person who drafted the Will.

New York City probate lawyer, Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years throughout Manhattan and Queens Counties resolve issues relating to estate litigation and settlement in New York Probate proceedings. 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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