The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has talked about many different aspects of estate settlement. An estate fiduciary such as an Executor or Administrator has a fiduciary obligation to identify, locate and collect estate assets.
In numerous instances, the decedent may have been involved in business or other transactions where his ownership interest in assets may be unclear or complicated by other factors. Likewise, third parties may be in physical possession of assets that are claimed to be owned by an estate but might have been the subject of a gift. Regardless of the situation, the estate fiduciary must determine the true owner of the asset and use all reasonable efforts to collect the asset on behalf of the estate. A recent case decided by Brooklyn Surrogate Diana Johnson on April 21, 2015 entitled Estate of Elberg, provides insight into the problems that an estate executor may face in recovering estate items.In Elberg, the Executor commenced a proceeding in the Surrogate’s Court to have certain assets turned over by the decedent’s son (“Ruben”) who was also a co-executor of the estate. Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act Section 2103, entitled “Proceeding by fiduciary to discovery property withheld or obtain information” is one of the provisions that provide procedures for the turnover or recovery of estate assets from third parties. The executor claimed that Ruben refused to give the estate the decedent’s interests in a number of Limited Liability Companies and corporations. Ruben asserted that he (Ruben) was either a part or full owner of these claimed estate assets.
The issue presented to the Surrogate was whether the turnover proceeding should be dismissed before trial based upon certain documentary evidence that Ruben submitted and alleged showed that he was, in fact, entitled to an ownership interest. After reviewing the documents, the Court determined that the so-called documentary evidence was insufficient for a summary dismissal. The Court also held that a restraining order that prevented Ruben from disposing of the assets before a final determination of the case should remain in place except to the extent that estate administrative expenses needed to be paid.
I have represented numerous persons in connection with turnover proceedings and other estate litigation regarding the recovery or protection of estate property. In many cases, problems with identifying and collecting a decedent’s property can be avoided by the decedent himself. It is always helpful to have a complete and clear estate plan including a Last Will. Also, asset ownership of items such as business interests and real estate should be clearly set out in writing so that there is no confusion as to the interest of the decedent. If you have any questions regarding Estate Settlement or the ownership of estate assets call me now for a free preliminary review of your issue.
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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