Surrogate’s Courts in New York are known for handling proceedings concerning the estates of a decedent. New York City Probate Lawyers assist their clients with filing cases for the probate of a Last Will. Estate Attorneys also help when there is no Will and a decedent dies intestate. In these matters a proceeding is filed to obtain Letters of Administration.
While probate and administration matters are commonly recognized to be reviewed by the Surrogates, there are many different types of issues and controversies that the Court decides. The general rule is that the Surrogate’s Court has jurisdiction over all matters that can effect a decedent’s estate. The variety of cases is endless. For example, I have represented clients in cases where the Court has been asked to evict occupants of a decedent’s residence. This typically occurs when a family member refuses to vacate the decedent’s property so that the executor or administrator can sell it on behalf of the estate. The Court can direct the occupant to vacate the property and can issue a warrant to the NYC Marshall or Sheriff to effectuate the eviction. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed some of these eviction problems in earlier articles.In other cases, the Court may be called upon to decide questions concerning the decedent’s ownership interest in property or a business. It is common that when a person dies there are lingering disputes regarding the decedent’s various ownership rights. The Surrogate’s Court has the authority to make decisions regarding these issues. In this regard there are recurring instances of estate litigation where pre-death transfers of property such as real estate or bank accounts are disputed and challenged in the Surrogate’s Court. I have represented many clients in these types of estate disputes.
The far reach of the Court’s jurisdiction is also recognized by the Federal Courts. In general, the Federal Courts acknowledge what is known to be a “probate exception” to Federal Court jurisdiction. In other words, even if a matter might properly be litigated in a Federal Court, such Court will refuse to hear the case if the matter concerns a Will, the administration of a decedent’s estate or a property issue that is being handled by the local or state court. Recently, the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York in a decision by Judge Lawrence E. Kahn dated January 30, 2017 in a case entitled Matter of Boisseau, recognized the probate exception. An interesting aspect of the case is that the Surrogate’s Court was asked to decide the validity of a lien asserted by an Employee’s benefit plan which was administered under ERISA which is a federal statute. Despite the federal nature of the issue, it was determined that the local Surrogate’s Court should handle the case since it concerned property relating to the decedent’s estate which was under the control of the local Court.
As can be seen from Boisseau, Surrogate’s Court matters involve a variety of complex issues all of which are related to estate settlement. If you have a question regarding a matter or problem relating to an estate, call me now for a free review. Estate lawyers can be helpful in resolving these types of cases.
New York Trust and Estate attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in Surrogate’s Court and estate administration in Manhattan and Brooklyn throughout the past 30 years. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about Estate Settlement, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.