Barry Seidel, Esq.

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Under New York law, when a person dies without a Will, sometimes  first cousins CAN inherit, subject to certain special rules. The most significant rule is that while first cousins can inherit, generally they cannot serve as fiduciary.  This job goes to the Public Administrator if the County has one (5 boros, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties do). After the Public Administrator is appointed, they do what a fiduciary is supposed to….marshal the assets, pay…
When I refer to a “probate case”, I am talking about any situation where someone has died and now someone else is now in my office. In these situations there are 3 main areas I ask questions about.  I can’t think of a situation where these questions would not be asked.  Ask these questions helps me figure out what may need to be done, helps me analyze possible scenarios, and helps me decide whether (and…
WHO SHOULD MAKE A WILL AND WHY DON’T THEY? What happens when a person dies without a Will? Contrary to popular misconception, their assets do NOT “go to the State”.  Their assets go to “family members” under the State’s laws of intestacy.  So, the question any sane person with assets should be asking is “Who would inherit from me if I don’t make a Will”. If the answer to that question is not what the…
Sometimes people write down their wishes or give written directions regarding what they want done after they die.  Sometimes they even call it a Will. Will these be considered a Will?   NO Sometimes people who would benefit from such writings ask me, as a lawyer, to bring these writings to the Courts attention.  They are essentially saying “Surely the Court will give SOME weight to the deceased person’s written statements.”  Will I make this…
If a fiduciary (in NY it’s an “Administrator” if no Will and “Executor” if there is) has to file an Accounting, where should they start?  What should they do? The Answer is to know what you should have been doing all along, and if you haven’t been, get caught up as much and as quickly as possible.   Here’s what you should have been doing: Collecting the decedent’s assets and depositing into an Estate bank account.…
When someone is a fiduciary (Executor or Administrator) of an Estate, they are accountable to the people who have an interest in the Estate.  This includes the beneficiaries.  When they are doing their job correctly, they are transparent, honest, and communicative. What if they aren’t doing those things?  What if they are being secretive, or doing things that don’t seem right?  Or are doing nothing? Sad to say, these things happen with some frequency. The…
When I start representing someone who is about to become a Fiduciary (Executor or Administrator) of an Estate, I always talk about “how an Estate finishes”.  Like many things in life and business, if you know where you are trying to go it is much easier to make a good plan to get there. Not every State handles “estate completion” the same way.  There are two basic approaches:  mandatory accounting vs non-mandatory accounting. In a…
There are two types of Surrogate’s Court Petitions that often give a lot a value. These are: Petition to Compel Production of a Will and Petition to Compel an Accounting. These are proceedings that can be used when you are trying to get things going and nothing is happening.   Not only are these petitions relatively easy to bring, they force recalcitrant players to come to Court and/or hire lawyers.  Very often these elements advance…
Basic definition – A fiduciary is a person who holds a legal or ethical relationship of trust with one or more other parties (person or group of persons). Typically, a fiduciary prudently takes care of money or other asset for another person. When doing Wills or handling Estates, we are often talking about fiduciaries.  A person who is named as Executor of an Estate, or who is appointed as Administrator of an Estate (in a…
Sometimes in Surrogate’s Court proceedings there are parties who have an interest in the proceedings but for some reason they cannot legally participate.  This can occur in any type of proceeding:  Probate, Administration and Accounting are the most common.  A party is considered “interested” if the proceeding affects them in some way.  In order to proceed with ANYTHING in Surrogate’s Court, you have to have “jurisdiction” over interested parties.  What this really means is you…