Ownership Problems Arising from Real Estate in an Estate

shutterstock_1021207423-300x200The settlement of a New York estate can be very complex based upon a number of factors.  To begin with, different rules apply where a decedent died with a Last Will and Testament as opposed to an intestate estate.  In the case of a Will, the distribution of estate assets is controlled by the terms of the Will.  In the case of intestacy, estate distribution is based upon the provisions of Estate, Powers and Trusts Law Section 4-1.1 entitled “Descent and distribution of a decedent’s estate.”

Also, where a Will exists, there is usually an executor appointed.  An estate administrator is appointed where there is no Will.  Both Executors and Administrators have essentially the same powers and authority although a Will may provide specific powers or directions to the estate fiduciary.

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many articles concerning real estate and estates.  A very common issue which arises is that an estate’s primary and most valuable asset is real estate.  If there are multiple estate beneficiaries, the real estate may need to be sold in order to satisfy each of the beneficial shares.  In many cases, the asset may be occupied by third party tenants or even relatives.  As a result, the estate fiduciary may need to commence eviction or ejectment proceedings in order to obtain possession of the property before it can be sold.

Eviction proceedings may be commenced in the appropriate landlord-tenant Court.  These matters can take a long time to be resolved.  Sometimes, proceedings may be filed in the Surrogate’s Court which is overseeing the estate proceedings in order to obtain a turnover of the property to the fiduciary.  Again, such estate litigation can be lengthy.

Other issues may arise as to actual rights either occupants or beneficiaries may have retarding the real estate, notwithstanding the appointment of an estate fiduciary.  For example, where a decedent dies intestate, the next of kin or distributees automatically become vested with an ownership share in the real estate.  This ownership share is subject to the authority of a fiduciary to control and sell the property to satisfy estate obligations, particularly a decedent’s debts and claims against an estate.

Even in the case of a Will, the named beneficiaries may receive interests which complicate the authority of the appointed fiduciary.  Such was the situation in a Queens estate concerning an executor in the Estate of Michael Roma.  In this estate, Queens Surrogate Peter J. Kelly issued a decision dated April 1, 2024 in connection with a petition by the executor to obtain a judgment of possession and warrant of eviction relating to occupants.

The decedent left a Will whereby the residuary estate, which was comprised of the decedent’s real estate, was left to the executor and decedent’s two friends.  The friends lived in the house.  After reviewing the facts, the Court noted that title to the property vested in the residuary beneficiaries upon the decedent’s death.  Thus, all the residuary beneficiaries became co-owners.  While the vesting of ownership was subject to the fiduciary’s obligation to sell the property to satisfy the decedent’s debts and obligations, the Court found that such items were not present and had been satisfied.  As a result, the Court, found that there were no estate assets or liabilities that needed to be administered.  The Court felt this matter really involved a dispute between living parties.  As a result, the Court dismissed the petition for possession and eviction without prejudice to the parties seeking a partition in the Supreme Court.

As can be seen from Roma, the administration of an estate with real estate can be complicated.  I have been representing clients in estate matters for over forty (40) years.  Do you have a problem or question regarding an estate?  Please Call Me Now for a free confidential review of your estate issue.  We offer reasonable and flexible fee arrangements and personal representation.

New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 40 years resolve issues relating to guardianship and probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau and Suffolk County.  If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial free consultation.

Contact Information