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Petitioner seeks to revoke letters of administration – In the Matter of Construction and Effect of the Revocable Trust Agreement, 20 Misc.3d 383 (N.Y. Surr. Ct., 2008)

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In this case, the Surrogate’s Court was asked by two of the decedent’s creditors to revoke the estate administrator’s letters of administration because in petitioning the court for letters of administrator, the petitioner mispresented his status as a distributee of the decedent’s estate.

The decedent, J. Young, was a successful songwriter.  He died in 1939 intestate.  The term “intestate” means that Young died without having executed a valid will.  He was survived by his spouse and his father. Under New York’s intestacy laws, they were his only distributees. In May 1939, Young’s wife was appointed administrator of his estate. She died in November 1973, leaving a properly executed will that named co-executors.

In September 2009, the grandnephew of the decedent, N. Young, petitioned the court for letters of administration de bonis non with respect to the decedent’s estate. Pursuant to  Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act § 1007 (link to: https://estatelawyer.1800nynylaw.com/surrogates-court-procedure-act-1007-administration-de-bonis-non.html) , letters of administration de bonis non are letters that allow for the administration of assets that remain in an estate in situations where the  original executor or previous administrator is unable to do so.  The petition filed by the grandnephew, the respondent in this case, was supported by waivers and consents of twenty-one of the distributees identified.  A citation was issued to one alleged distributee who did not appear on the return date. According to his petition, the value of the assets in need of administration was $9,000.00.

In this case, the petitioners Rytvoc and Warock Corporation, requested the revocation of the letters of administration issued to N. Young.  They assert that the letters should be revoked because N. Young made misrepresentations in his petition. They also question the $9,000 of the estate since the estate would have received royalties for 70 years from the songs that the decedent wrote.

Rytvoc and Warock assert standing based on being creditors of the estate.  Under Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act § 711, a creditor has the right to petition the court to suspend, modify, or revoke letters.  However, in order for the petitioners to be entitled to petition for the revocation of letters, the petitioners must have had standing at the time the petition was filed. Here, the petitioners filed their petition in July 2012, three months before they filed their Notice of Claim in October 2012.  As result, the petitioners did not have standing in July of 2012.  Thus, Rytvoc’s and  Warock’s petition is dismissed on the basis of lack of standing.

The case does not end with the dismissal of the petition for revocation of N. Young’s letters.  As Rytvoc and Warock pointed out, pursuant to Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act § 711, the Surrogate’s Court has the authority to revoke, suspend or modify letters if it learns that the letters were obtained based on a “false suggestion of a material fact.”  For example, if the petitioner made an inaccurate statement regarding kinship in his or her petitioner for letters, then the court would have sufficient reason to revoke the letters.  The court points out that in the case of an inaccurate representation of a material fact, it does not matter if the misrepresentation was innocent or if it was made with the intent to commit fraud.

Under Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act § 1001, letters are to be issued to persons who are distributees of an intestate decedent, and who are eligible and qualify, in a specified order. The only distributees of the decedent’s estate were his surviving spouse and his father, both of whom are deceased. This means that the next in line to serve as administrator of the decedent’s estate are the fiduciaries of the estates of distributees. Here, the petitioner failed to mention the names of the decedent’s two distributes or the fiduciaries of their estates.

Furthermore, the petition lists the decedent’s assets in need of administration as $9,000.00. Because the decedent was a successful songwriter whose estate consisted of 70 years of royalty interests, the court expressed concern that the petitioner understated the value of the assets that remain in the decedent’s estate.

Accordingly, the court revoked R. Young’s letters of administration de bonis non and issued letters of temporary administration to the Public Administrator who will attempt to identify the parties who have a prior right to letters of administration de bonis non.  In addition, the Public Administrator will ascertain the value of the assets in need of administration.

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