The appointment of a fiduciary is essential for the administration of a decedent’s estate. Assets that were owned solely in a decedent’s name at death are not accessible unless the Court appoints a duly authorized representative. Such representative can be an administrator if the person dies intestate or an executor if there is a Last Will and Testament.
Both executors and administrators have duties and responsibilities. Their primary job is to identify, protect and collect estate assets. They must also determine the existence of any claims or debts and, ultimately, distribute the net estate to the estate beneficiaries. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog contains many articles discussing the administration of estates.
Upon receiving a Court appointment, the fiduciary is held responsible for carrying out the above duties. If he fails to do so, the Surrogate’s Court has the power to remove him from office and revoke the letters testamentary or letters of administration which were issued to him. Such was the outcome in a case entitled Matter of the Estate of Lewner which was decided by Manhattan Surrogate Nora Anderson on December 16, 2020. In Lewner, a son of the decedent had been appointed Preliminary Executor of the decedent’s estate. A petition to remove the son was filed due to the son’s failure to properly perform his fiduciary duties. Among other improprieties, the Court found that the son did not file estate and income tax returns relating to the decedent resulting in liability to the estate for interest and penalty charges. It was also reported that the probate proceeding was not prosecuted for years which delayed the settlement of the estate. Based upon the above, the Court revoked the son’s Preliminary Letters Testamentary and appointed the Public Administrator as Temporary Administrator. The son was also directed to file an account of his activities as fiduciary.