A New York Fiduciary Can Have a Deed to Estate Property Cancelled

The Estate Administration process involves many different issues.  A New York Estate Lawyer typically represents a fiduciary, such as an Executor or Administrator, who is responsible for handling these matters.  The collection of the decedent’s assets is always a primary function to be carried out.  Some assets are easy to obtain such as bank accounts and brokerage accounts that are in the name of the decedent. However, many situations arise where the determination and collection of estate assets is extremely difficult and complex.

One area that consistently presents challenges concerns the ownership rights to real estate.  Unfortunately, the names on deeds and title issues regarding prior deed transfers can present immense problems for a fiduciary.  This is compounded by the fact that real estate interests tends to have large values. Therefore, parties with interests adverse to the estate have a tremendous incentive to interfere with or dispute estate ownership rights.I represent many executors and administrators in estates which have real estate interests. In addition to estate matters, my experience in dealing with real estate transfers and landlord and tenant issues spans over 30 years.

A recent case decided on June 9, 2016 by Brooklyn Surrogate Margarita Lopez Torres entitled Estate of Bowser, is a typical example of the difficult issues that can be presented in an estate regarding real estate assets. In Bowser, the decedent had owned a Brooklyn property. He was survived by one child and three grandchildren who were the children of a pre-deceased child. The decedent’s Last Will left his estate to his two children in equal shares. After the decedent died the surviving daughter, who had been acting as estate executor, transferred the Brooklyn real estate to herself as the decedent’s sole surviving heir. Following this transfer, one of the decedent’s grandchildren obtained a fiduciary appointment in the estate in New York and commenced a proceeding in the Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court to cancel both the deed to the daughter and a mortgage which the daughter had placed on the property.

After determining that the surviving daughter, as well as the grandchildren, owned 50% interests in the property under the Will, the Court turned its attention to the validity of the deed and the mortgage.  In this regard the Surrogate found that the deed transfer to the one daughter was improper and that the deed should be cancelled.  It was also determined that the mortgage was not valid since the deed transfer was voided.

The Bowser case is very interesting since it highlights the problems that estate fiduciaries face when ascertaining the decedent’s property and enforcing the estate and beneficiaries interests in those assets. There are many instances where a decedent’s property is improperly transferred either before or after death. The fiduciary’s job is to be vigilant and to be certain that all assets are collected and properly distributed. The daughter in Bowser wrongly contended that the grandchildren did not have any rights under the Will to receive a share of property. Therefore, the daughter’s transfer of the whole interest in the decedent’s real estate to herself was voided by the Court.

If you have any questions regarding Estate Administration or the transfer of real estate in an estate, please call me now for a free review.

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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