What is a Citation in Surrogate’s Court and How to Respond

Citation-300x200As a New York Estate Lawyer, I am frequently contacted by individuals who have received a paper from the Surrogate’s Court that is titled at the top with the word “CITATION.”  Most people are not familiar with the procedures involved in estate settlement or estate litigation cases or the requirements in the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) and the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) regarding the giving of notice to other parties.

A Citation is similar to a Summons that is served on a party when a civil lawsuit is commenced. In a civil lawsuit parties are generally referred to as plaintiffs and defendants.  In the Surrogate’s Court, the references are usually petitioners and respondents.  A Citation is issued by the Court Clerk and indicates that some type of proceeding has been started in the Court.  This is typically the Clerk in the department of the Court in which the proceeding is filed.  For example, if a probate proceeding has been filed, then the probate clerk generally issues the Citation.

The Citation is the Court paper that is used to notify interested parties about the commencement of a case.  SCPA section 306 entitled “Citation” provides the various requirements regarding the information that the Citation must contain.  Among other items, it should identify the name and domicile of the person whose estate is the subject of the case.  It also needs to list the names of all the persons who are to be served with the paper.  Proper service of the Citation is essential since it allows the Court to obtain jurisdiction over all the parties to be served and to make a determination regarding the issues that may be presented.  The various sections of the estate laws must be carefully reviewed to learn the proper manner of service of the Citation.  Typically, personal delivery is needed for service on parties in New York while certified mail may be allowed for out of state respondents.

The Citation will also provide specific information as to the time and place for the Court appearance.  The Court date cannot be more than four months after the date the Citation is issued.  It will also give a description of the issues and relief sought in the proceeding such as the probate of a Will or the appointment of an estate Administrator in an intestate estate.  Citations are issued in many other types of cases such as Accounting proceedings.  Importantly, the name, address and telephone number of the attorney representing the person petitioning for Court relief must appear on the form.

A person interested in the matter receives a Citation unless they consent to the relief that is being sought.  In many cases, interested parties are requested to sign consents in order to avoid the more time-consuming process of serving and responding to a Citation.  In an Administration Proceeding this form would be a Waiver of Citation, Renunciation and Consent to Appointment of Administrator.”  A probate matter form of consent is called a “Waiver of Process; Consent to Probate.”  However, if the respondent does not consent to the relief, he will not sign a consent.  For example, if a party wants a Will to be contested, he will receive a Citation and proceed with the estate litigation.

When a person (respondent) receives a Citation through the mail or from a process server, it should not be ignored.  His rights need to be protected by understanding the nature of the Surrogate’s Court case and his interests in the issue that the Court is being asked to decide.  A respondent should either seek legal counsel or contact the Court to investigate the matters that are being litigated.  It is always a good idea to review the Court file to see all the papers that have been filed in the case.  There is no requirement to send all of these papers with the Citation. Once the respondent decides to move forward, he or his attorney should provide the Court and other parties with a Notice of Appearance so that the Court has an official notification of his involvement.  Otherwise, if a respondent fails to respond or appear, he may be found to be in default and lose valuable rights.

I have represented many individuals in all types of Surrogate’s Court cases where the Court has issued a Citation.  When I represent a respondent, I file a Notice of Appearance so that the Court and all other parties are aware that my client’s interests are being protected.  Call Me Now for a free confidential review of your issue in any estate case concerning a Citation or other question.  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 year 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.

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