A decedent’s estate in New York is comprised of different assets. In many estates the most valuable asset is real estate. The real estate assets can be in the nature of the decedent’s residential property or commercial or business property. It is also common for someone to have owned a condominium apartment or a unit in a cooperative corporation.
Controversies and estate litigation often arises concerning these real estate interests. One common problem that is faced by estate executors or administrators is when the real estate needs to be sold and a third-party or even an estate beneficiary refuses to vacate the property to allow it to be sold. In these cases eviction proceedings in the landlord-tenant Court may be needed. Eviction proceedings can also be commenced in the Surrogate’s Court. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed these matters in earlier articles. I have been involved in many cases where an estate fiduciary needed to evict beneficiaries from estate houses.Another area of dispute often involves ownership issues of the estate real estate. The ownership or the title on a deed may be unclear or there may be issues regarding the chain of title or prior transfers. A frequent question that arises is where a decedent transfers ownership of property shortly before death. Such a transfer may be inconsistent with the terms of the decedent’s Last Will. In these matters there are typically claims of undue influence, mistake or fraud. Litigation in the Surrogate’s Court is needed to resolve these issues which can delay estate settlement.
A recent case decided by Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Philip Straniere on November 15, 2017 entitled Hobbesland v. Hobbesland provides an example of a family dispute regarding real estate ownership. Although the case does not involve a decedent’s estate, the issues raised reflect problems that have concerned many estates.
In Hobbesland, a property owner transferred his house to his son and daughter-in-law but retained a life estate. This allowed him to continue to reside in the house. The property owner’s other children apparently viewed this transfer as improper, and the property owner subsequently brought a lawsuit to void the deed transfer claiming that the transfer was due to a fraudulent misrepresentation or undue influence.
After fully reviewing the facts and the transactions that occurred the Court dismissed the lawsuit. Essentially, the Court found that the property owner had been represented by an attorney throughout the deed transfer process and had full knowledge and information regarding the entire transaction.
I have represented many clients and estates regarding a wide variety of issues and problems concerning estate real estate including coops and condos. Call me now if you would like a free discussion regarding your issue or concern relating to these matters.
New York City estate attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in Probate and Estate Administration proceedings in Manhattan and Westchester Counties throughout the past 30 years. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a Last Will or other aspects of Probate or Estate Administration, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.