The administration and settlement of an estate in New York requires that the fiduciary perform many tasks. Initially, the first hurdle that must be overcome is the actual appointment process. When a decedent dies leaving a Last Will, the Will must be probated and the Court can appoint an Executor. Where the decedent dies intestate, a proceeding to appoint an administrator is filed instead of a probate proceeding. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog contains many posts discussing the probate process and intestate proceedings. In the event there is a Will contest or Surrogate’s Court litigation regarding the administrator’s appointment, the estate may not have a fiduciary appointment for a period of time. Applications can be made to the Court for the appointment of a Preliminary Executor or Temporary Administrator.
A Court appointed fiduciary is the only person who has authority to deal with the affairs that are strictly related to the decedent. The fiduciary can collect assets that are in the decedent’s sole name and pay or compromise debts or claims which relate to the deceased. Another important aspect of an appointment is that the Administrator or Executor can access the decedent’s safe deposit box and residence. Taxes are an additional area where a fiduciary is important since he can sign the decedent’s outstanding income tax returns and also any estate tax returns which may need to be prepared and filed. In fact, an estate representative may become personally liable if he fails to finalize and pay various tax obligations relating to the decedent.
There are other areas where the need for a fiduciary is essential. For example, a number of recent Court decisions provide excellent examples of the essential role a duly appointed executor or administrator play in estate settlement. Kew Gardens Dev. Corp. v. Butcher involved a Brooklyn estate and was decided by Brooklyn Surrogate Margarita Lopez Torres on May 13, 2021. In Kew Gardens a dispute arose concerning the ownership of certain real estate and the various rights which the parties held pursuant to a certain deed and inheritance status. The relevant portion of the case for our reference is that the Court held that the duly appointed Executor who had received letters testamentary was the only person who had the legal authority to convey the decedent’s interest in the property. The Court also stated that this exclusive right did not diminish over time.
Frometa v. Mar-Can Transp. Co., which was decided by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Veronica Hummel on April 8, 2021, involved causes of action for wrongful death and personal injuries relating to a decedent. Here, the Court held that the duly appointed Administrator was the only person authorized to pursue these claims.
As can be seen, the duties and powers of an estate fiduciary can be varied and involve many different aspects of rights and obligations affecting a decedent’s estate. I have represented executors and administrators and other parties involved in an estate in all sorts of matters concerning a decedent’s estate to protect their interests. Call Me Now for a free confidential review of your estate matter. 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.