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I Received a Citation from the New York Surrogate’s Court – What is This?

Assuming you reside in New York, you were likely served with a Citation in person. Since a Citation looks and feels like a regular court summons, it gets people nervous. Being served with a Citation, does not necessarily mean that you are being sued, and in fact can work out in your favor. Yet, as we warned seven years ago, “if this were a friendly situation, you would most likely have received a waiver.”[1]

Since there are multiple reasons as to why a Citation was served on you, it is crucial to understand it or hire a lawyer to help you through this process. The citation by law needs to substantially state the “object of the proceeding and the relief sought in the petition.”[2] The citation’s reply must be requested within four-month to finalize a reply to the citation.[3] Yet, generally a reply is requested as early as within ten days.[4] So, do not delay!

What this essentially means, is that you are an interested party—that is, a party without whose waiver, consent, and/or notice, an estate cannot distribute. Here are some possible reasons as to why you received a Citation as governed by Section 1403 of the Surrogate Code:[5]

The most common reason for a Citation is to see if there’s a probate objection. You may be an interested party in a will, and the judge wants to ensure that you do not object to the will’s entry into probate. Or alternatively, this will negatively impact you because there is another will on file, and you need to be notified. For example, let us say that you are a grandchild, but that a will has been introduced, leaving you 10%, and your second-cousin 90%. This allows you time to object to the will for various allowable reasons.

There are additional, less common reasons as well. One is for intestate succession. This means that a possible relative of yours passed away without a will. A court is now looking for the nearest relative, and you are possibly it. An additional possibility is that a relative within same degree of consanguinity wishes to become the estate’s executor. For example: if your uncle passed away, and you are the closest living relative, together with the uncle’s other niece, and that niece’s control over the estate requires your presence and either a waiver—or most likely a challenge to the proceeding. Another reason could be that you were an interested party for a previously probated will, and the executor is relieving themselves of the duty (perhaps because they claim to have distributed everything). This requires a process called an accounting. The executor records all ins and outs of the estate, and this awaits any potential objections from the interested parties.[6]

On the other hand, it is possible that you are receiving a Citation because a will requests for you to be the executor and that another secondary petitioner wishes to take on this role. Depending on the case you may want to challenge and object or acquiesce and waive any objections.

If you are unsure of the reason you are receiving a Citation you can go to the court and ask to enter the Record Room to view a copy of the file. If you do not wish to do this alone or know the reason, or wish to file an objection, it is best to contact an experienced New York estate lawyer immediately. You can give us a call at (212) 233-1233. If you need an attorney for your Citation, call Albert Goodwin, Esq., a New York estate, guardianship, wills, trust, medicaid and probate lawyer with over a decade of experience.

[1] Albert Goodwin, What Do I Do If I Got a New York Surrogate Court Citation? June 16, 2001

[2] N.Y. Surr. Ct. Proc. Act Law § 306 (McKinney 2018).

[3] Id.§ 306(1)(c).

[4] Id.§ 308.

[5] Id.§ 1403.

[6] Seeid.§ 307, 2210.