New York Property Disputes Can Be Determined By The Surrogates Court

Did you know that an estate is typically comprised of many different types of assets? These assets may include bank and financial accounts, retirement funds, life insurance and real estate. It is not uncommon for real estate to constitute the most valuable item in an estate.

Real estate in a general sense can include single or multi-family residential property, commercial property, condominiums and co-operative apartments. When there are disputes regarding real estate in which a decedent had an interest, the question often arises as to whether the Surrogates Court is the appropriate forum to litigate such issues.

For example, the New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published numerous posts discussing the problems presented when third parties occupy estate property. Generally, when a person is improperly occupying real estate, in a typical landlord-tenant type of situation, the property owner will commence a proceeding in the New York City Civil Court landlord-tenant part (or similar Court outside of NYC), to evict the holdover or non-authorized occupant.

While an estate fiduciary such as an Administrator or Executor can commence proceedings in the landlord-tenant Courts, this situation may be more complicated when a family member or estate beneficiary is residing or occupying the property. In these cases, it may be possible to bring a turnover or ejectment action in the Surrogates Court to have the occupant removed.

In other cases, there may be a dispute as to the sale of property that is partially owned by an estate and a third party. When the owners of a property cannot agree to sell the property, a Partition action can be commenced to obtain a Court Order directing the sale of the property. While these cases are generally commenced in the New York Supreme Court when they involve living parties, there is a question as to whether the Surrogates Court would accept jurisdiction of a Partition case if the interests of a decedents estate were involved.

This question came up for consideration in the Queens Surrogates Court in a case entitled Matter of the Estate of Parisi which was decided by Queens Surrogate Peter Kelly on February 6, 2016. In Parisi a petition was filed with the Court to request permission to proceed with a Partition action in the Surrogates Court where the decedents estate had only a minor interest in the properties. After reviewing the background of jurisdiction in the Surrogates Court, the Surrogate dismissed the Partition action. The Court found that the estates interest in the properties was only a minor interest and the owners of the majority interests involved in the dispute were not directly interested in the estate as beneficiaries or otherwise. The Court found that the primary focus of the parties was not a resolution of estate affairs.

Proceedings to evict occupants from estate property or to force the sale of property where there are multiple owners who cannot agree can be very complex. I have represented individuals in estate eviction proceedings and other property disputes. Call me now for a free discussion regarding your estate property issue or estate settlement question.

New York Probate Attorney Jules M. Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to estate planning, estate accountings and estate settlement in Brooklyn and Nassau and throughout New York. 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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