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Court Determines if it has Subject Matter Jurisdiction

On 28 December 1993, the decedent died. On 28 January1994, The decedent’s Last Will and Testament was admitted to probate (no will contest) and letters testamentary were issued.

The issue here (estate litigation) is whether or not an order consenting to a transfer to the Nassau County court of an action currently pending in Supreme Court, New York County is proper.

The respondent has argued that the Nassau County court lacks subject matter jurisdiction of the dispute and that it is not the proper venue for the case.

The courts have ruled that a case involving two living parties (one being a fiduciary of a decedent’s estate) and an eviction proceeding, that, “for the Court to decline jurisdiction, it should be abundantly clear that the matter in controversy in no way affects the affairs of a decedent or the administration of his estate (estate administration)”. A New York Probate Lawyer said that here, it is not “abundantly clear that the matter in controversy in no way affects the administration of his [Decedent’s] estate.” It is readily conceded by the parties that decedent’s sixty shares of a certain corporation are a major asset of the estate. In the accounting proceeding filed, the petitioner moved for an order confirming majority shareholder’s corporate actions, compelling respondent, as vice president of such corporation, to comply with a demand to call a special meeting and, as director, to consent. In fact, a court decision regarding ownership of decedent’s sixty shares of a corporation would undoubtedly affect the administration of his estate and is well within the court’s purview. Therefore, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction to hear respondent’s pending case insofar as the issue concerns ownership of the shares.

On the issue of venue, proceedings involving lifetime trusts can be properly heard where “(a) assets of the trust estate are located, or (b) the grantor was domiciled at the time of the commencement of a proceeding concerning the trust, or (c) a trustee then acting sides.” Under the rules of court, “the proper venue for proceeding relating to estates is the county of the decedent’s domicile at the time of his death ” If it is disputed whether the case involves a lifetime trust or an estate asset, the rules give the Court the power “to determine property available for distribution under his [the decedent’s] will and to determine the rights of any persons claiming an interest therein as between themselves, and to construe any instrument made by him affecting such property.” Manhattan probate lawyers said that while the respondent asserted that a tontine trust between decedent, petitioner, and respondent governs the decedent’s sixty shares, petitioner claimed otherwise, arguing that the shares pass under the decedent’s will addresses the shares.

Because it is disputed whether a lifetime trust governs decedent’s shares, the Court can make a determination as to whether the sixty shares are available for distribution. Moreover, not only was decedent’s will admitted to probate by this court, but this court was subsequently involved in two accounting proceedings regarding the decedent’s estate. While the court in a previous case was enforced after probate, there was no controversy over the existence of the inter vivos trust, and the Court was not involved in post-probate action between parties. There was, however, a controversy over the existence of a tontine trust, and the Court has been involved with numerous matters regarding the decedent’s estate. Hence, Nassau County is the proper venue for respondent’s pending case to be heard.

Nassau County Probate Lawyers said that since the subject matter jurisdiction and venue are proper, the transfer is also proper. The Nassau County court consents to the transfer of the pending if the Supreme Court of New York County be inclined to order its transfer.

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