The administrator of an estate is a fiduciary. As such, they are held to a high standard of conduct. They must perform their responsibilities with care and make the interests of the estate a top priority. They must be trustworthy and must not self-deal. If an administrator violates their duty of care, their actions can be challenged in court. If the court concludes that the administrator was in breach of their fiduciary duty, potential consequences include reversal of the problematic transaction, suspension, or removal.
In In re Seward, on April 2, 2001, the decedent’s will was admitted to probate and letters of administration were issued appointing co-administrators. Nearly 20 years later, in September 2018, a petition was filed to revoke the letters of administration, to suspend the administrators as fiduciaries, and to appoint a new administrator. The petitioners alleged that the administrators had allowed the estate to languish for nearly 20 years. Further, the petition alleged that one of the administrators was acting against the interests of the estate.
New York law provides that the Surrogate’s Court can suspend or revoke letters issued to an estate administrator or other fiduciary. Reasons for suspending or revoking letters include evidence that the fiduciary wasted or misapplied assets, damaged estate property, removed property without approval, or failed to follow an order of the court. SCPA 711