Here is a checklist of the rights of beneficiaries of a New York estate:
- Receive current and truthful information about the estate
- Get the entire share of the estate that they are entitled to
- Receive a timely distribution of their share of the estate
- Receive an inventory of the estate within nine months of the executor or administrator being appointed
- Compel the executor or an administrator to provide a formal judicial accounting
- Remove an executor or administrator who is using the estate for their own gain
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 the removal of the executor or administrator from the estate.
Rights of beneficiaries 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.
Receive a timely distribution of their share
Beneficiaries should start receiving some sort of distributions from the estate within seven months of the 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 month of delay costs the beneficiary loss 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 the 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 the 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 of beneficiaries 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 minimum, 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 a beneficiary and an executor/administrator agree to an informal accounting, it might work, as long as the beneficiary is satisfied, they have all the information. When an executor files an informal accounting, they don’t have to file it with the court. They can just provide it to the beneficiaries. An executor may ask a beneficiary to approve an informal accounting before the executor makes distributions of estate funds.
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 an incomplete or fraudulent accounting. Beneficiaries can sue to contest 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 the rights of beneficiaries of a New York estate, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at email@example.com.