The procedure and terminology in a case involving a New York estate can be perplexing to those unfamiliar with this area of the law. Surrogate’s Court matters typically involve statutes that are part of the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) and the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL).
The Surrogate’s Court is the forum in which matters such as the probate of a Last Will and Testament or the administration of an intestate estate are presented. This kind of a case is a separate proceeding. There are numerous additional types of proceedings, most of which concern the affairs of a decedent. For example, there are accounting proceedings, kinship proceedings, turn-over proceedings and proceedings to remove an executor or administrator from office. Since each proceeding is like a separate lawsuit, it is necessary for the Court to be certain that jurisdiction is obtained over all of the interested parties. In this manner, the Court is assured that when it makes a decision in the case, its ruling will bind all of the interested parties and all of the interested parties will be given the opportunity to be heard and to protect their interests.
In each proceeding, the initiating party must provide the Court with full information regarding the identity and address of all interested parties. If any of his information is unknown, the Court must be advised as to the missing information and the efforts made to obtain these facts.
The manner by which a proceeding is commenced is by the issuing of “process.” Essentially, process is the document that is sent out to a party which informs them that they are involved in the case and need to answer to the Court in some manner. SCPA Section 103(43) defines “process” as “Citation, order to show cause, subpoena and any other mandate of the Surrogate’s Court by which jurisdiction is obtained of a party.”
A Citation is like a summons and directs a person who is interested in a proceeding to appear before the Court and respond. As an example, in a probate proceeding, a Citation will be issued to the decedent’s next of kin and direct that they should appear before the Court at a certain time and date to advise whether they intend to object to the probate of the decedent’s Will.
When a person receives a Citation, he must pay careful attention to the dates and times provided for an appearance and a response. If these time requirements are not adhered to by the party receiving the Citation, he might be determined to be in default and lose his rights. In most cases, the return date of the Citation can be adjourned for good cause on application to the Court.
When a person receives a Citation, in most instances, he will need to engage in some procedure to let the Court and the other parties know that he does not agree with the relief being requested. This usually involves filing Objections to a petition which is the pleading which initiates the issuance of the Citation. Thus, in the case of a probate of a Will, Objections can be filed to the probate proceeding. Such Objections would allege matters like improper Will execution, lack of testamentary capacity, or undue influence. Appropriate Objections can be presented in other types of matters.
An experienced estate lawyer is familiar with the procedures in the Surrogate’s Court and the manner by which a Citation needs to be responded to. Call Me Now for a free confidential review if you need to respond to a Citation or have the Court issue a Citation for your case. We provide 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.