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Rights of Beneficiaries of a New York Estate

Beneficiaries of a New York estate have substantial rights:

  • Estate beneficiaries have the right to receive current and truthful information about the estate
  • Estate beneficiaries have the right to get the entire share of the estate that they are entitled to
  • Estate beneficiaries have the right to receive a timely distribution of their share of the estate
  • Estate beneficiaries have the right to receive an inventory of the estate within nine months of the executor or administrator being appointed
  • Estate beneficiaries have the right to compel the executor or an administrator to provide a formal judicial accounting
  • Estate beneficiaries have the right to have an executor or administrator who is not using the estate for their own gain

The Right to Receive Information About the Estate

If the executor or administrator is not giving you information about the estate when asked, they may be hiding something. If you have that suspicion, it’s best to consult with a New York estate attorney. We might send them a letter on your behalf, explaining that you have rights and that failure to provide information can result in removal of the executor or administrator from the estate.

The Right to Get the Entire Share of the Estate

It does not matter how the Executor or Administrator feels about it. The estate is not their personal property or business. They are just there to do a job – to find all of the assets of the estate and promptly distribute the assets to creditors and beneficiaries of the decedent. The executor and administrator cannot keep any of it or give it away to their friends or relatives. They are only entitled to commissions and their own share as a beneficiary.

The Right to Receive a Timely Distribution of Their Share

Beneficiaries should start receiving some sort of distributions from the estate within seven months of appointment of the Executor or Administrator. The executor does not have to disburse the entire estate at once, but at least a partial distribution is expected. Every months of delay costs the beneficiary lost of use and enjoyment of their share of the estate. If the executor is taking too long, an estate attorney can go a long way in showing them that distributing estate to the beneficiaries should be a priority.

The Right to Inventory of an Estate Within Nine Months of Appointment

Beneficiaries have the right to receive an Inventory of the estate (not to be confused with a formal accounting) within nine months of the appointment of the executor or administrator of the estate. An Inventory is something that should just be filed – the beneficiary should not have to ask for it. Some executors or administrators make a mistake of just filing the Inventory with the Court and not automatically sending a copy to the beneficiaries. It’s always a good idea to ask the administrator or executor for an inventory before deciding whether or not to proceed to the next step.

The Right to Compel a Judicial Accounting

An estate accounting is a document that details every transaction that occurred in the estate and provides some summaries and explanations of the transactions. The document consists of various schedules in a court-approved format and complying with general accounting standards. At a minimal, the estate accounting includes schedules listing line by line all of the assets that are a part of the estate, all of the expenses of the estate, all income of the estate, and proposed distributions of the estate.

Executors or administrators of an estate do not have an automatic obligation to file an accounting of the estate. But once the beneficiaries request an accounting, executors and administrators have to provide one.

If beneficiary and executor/administrator agree to an informal accounting, it might work, as long as the beneficiary is satisfied they have all the information. An informal accounting does not have to be filed with the court, it’s just provided to a beneficiary. A beneficiary might be asked to approve the informal accounting before any distribution is made.

If the beneficiary is not satisfied with an informal accounting, they can ask for a formal accounting. If the executor/administrator fails to provide one, the beneficiaries can compel the executor/administrator to provide one. If the executor/administrator is ordered by the court to provide an accounting, they usually do, or get removed by the court. Sometimes they provide incomplete or fraudulent accountings. Beneficiaries can sue to challenge those accountings and get the money that the executor/administrator may be keeping from the beneficiaries.

If you are looking for a New York estate attorney who protects rights of beneficiaries of a New York estate, call Albert Goodwin, Esq. at (212) 233-1233.