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Probate of Will Presents Jurisdiction Issue


This is a case involving the estate of a decedent who was a national of British Honduras and left properties located in New York and other countries. The decedent left no legitimate heirs and part of the properties he left involved certificates of stocks from 50 corporations and other banks as well as brokerage accounts all found in New York. An action was filed in the Court of New York for the escheat of the said stock certificates and other accounts since there were no legitimate heirs available to lay claim to the said properties. British Honduras, through its representatives also laid claim on the said certificates and other accounts in the name of the State arguing that since the latter died with no heirs, that the State of British Honduras can therefore claim said properties as by law they already belong to the State.

The facts state that the decedent executed a will way back in 1918. This will was admitted to probate by the Supreme Court of British Honduras. Later on, a second will surfaced in 1955 and an action was brought to have the 1918 will revoked because of the existence of a later will. Suffolk County Probate Lawyers said petitions were filed to declare the 1918 will as destroyed or revoked which was timely opposed by the concerned parties. Delays were incurred due to the legal battle and before the Court of British Honduras can finally decide the issue, the Surrogate Court of New York assumed jurisdiction to have the 1955 will probated and appointed to that effect a special guardian for possible infant legatees who are still possibly living in British Honduras.

The government of British Honduras protested the jurisdiction assumed by the Surrogate Court of New York and filed a case in intervention arguing that since the case is still pending in their country, the New York Court has no right to assume jurisdiction. A New York Probate Lawyer said they argued further that since there was effectively only one estate of the decedent and this pertains to all kinds of properties wherever they may be found, and arguing further that the decedent is a citizen of their country, that all other probate or estate administration must originate from the country where the decedent is domiciled and all other proceedings later filled must be treated as only ancillary to the proceedings of the court that first took cognizance of the case.

The only issue squarely presented before the Appellate court is whether or not the government of British Honduras has the legal personality to intervene in the proceedings Probate before the Surrogate Court of New York.

The Court of Appeals of New York in deciding the issues present in the case, opined that since they are not called upon to decide whether the Surrogate Court of New York has jurisdiction over the will contest of the decedent, it is only proper to rule on the issue whether the government of British Columbia has the personality to intervene in the case at hand. A Staten Island Probate Lawyer said the Court explained that if the Attorney General were to be allowed to be a party to the determination of the case, then the government of British Honduras should also have the same right because the properties involved were owned by the a citizen of their country. The fact that all the beneficiaries and descendants of the decedent are also citizens of British Honduras also bolster the logic that said government must be given the right to intervene in this regard. The Court then ruled that both the Attorney General and the government of British Honduras are entitled to be heard and there is no reason to exclude either of them in the estate litigation.

Protecting the rights of legitimate heirs, legatees and devisees is an important role that a New York Estate Lawyer performs. To avoid possible legal problems that might happen because of the absence of a will or other legal impediments to the probate of a will, it is always important that you avail the services of a New York Probate Lawyer. Stephen Bilkins and Associates are experts in the field of Wills and Succession and they can provide the necessary legal assistance in matters concerning probate of a will and other similar services.

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