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Court Decides Jurisiction Issue Regarding Estate


A decedent, who is a resident of Texas and domiciled at Mexico, has possessions in Cayman Islands.

A New York Probate Lawyer said the decedent, while living in New York in 1988, opened an investment account in London. During his lifetime, he deposited over $1,300,000 through a New York bank and his account was handled by an investment manager of the London investment house. The deceased named his marital son as the beneficiary of said investment account.

In 1989, the decedent made an arrangement with a trust officer of another bank to establish a discretionary off-shore trust account in Cayman Islands using the funds from his investment account in London.

In April 1990, he executed a “Letter of Instructions and Wishes to Establish a Trust and Company” giving absolute discretion to the trust in case of his incapacity and he sent an “Asset Transfer Instruction Letter” to London investment house ordering transfer the remaining balance of his investment account to his trust account in Cayman Islands. Thereafter, he named his other non-marital son residing in Canada to be the beneficiary of said trust. The following day, the decedent committed suicide causing his death.

The spouse of the decedent’s ex-wife was declared as administrator in Mexico responsible for decedent’s estate administration. The Mexican Probate Court declared decedent’s marital son in London as the sole and universal heir of his father’s estate. Bronx Probate Lawyers said the London investment house made arrangements with the trust bank in Cayman Islands to manage the decedent’s assets and was later on liquidated by London investment house as per order of the trust bank.

Proceeds of the liquidated trust were transferred to a bank account in Cayman Islands.

A year after the death of the decedent, his administrator from Mexico petitioned New York Surrogate Court for ancillary letters of administration involving a bank account in said state. The real purpose of the estate litigation is to conduct discovery proceedings in tracing the decedent’s investment fund in London in excess of the $1,200,000 transferred to his trust account in Cayman Islands. The administrator appointed a New York Estate Administration lawyer to be an ancillary administrator who alleged that both the investment house in London and the trust company in Cayman Islands made an unauthorized transfer of funds of the decedent. He, furthermore, claimed that the New York Surrogate Court have power to conduct the turnover and discovery proceedings upon its issuance of the ancillary letter of administration over decedent’s small bank account in New York. The same Court concluded that it possessed and acquired jurisdiction over the subject matter of the proceedings and that an ancillary administrator’s powers are not limited to the collection of decedent’s assets but also covers will contest. The proceedings were questioned by both the London investment house and a bank in Cayman Islands handling the trust account of the decedent.

The New York Surrogate Court’s jurisdiction is being inquired into whether or not it has jurisdiction over the decedent’s assets at Cayman Islands.

Brooklyn Probate Lawyers said the Supreme Court ruled that the New York Surrogate Court has no jurisdiction over decedent’s assets in Cayman Islands. According the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) Article 16, “ancillary administration shall be granted in this state only when there is an actual administration in the domiciliary jurisdiction.” The aforementioned provision does not allow New York Surrogate Court to overcome jurisdiction of the Mexican Probate Court where the decedent is domiciled covering assets located outside New York. Furthermore, similar provisions in SCPA made the Supreme Court to conclude that authority of the Surrogate’s Court over assets of non-domiciliary decedent in an ancillary proceeding is generally limited to properties within its State.

Death in the family causes a person great grief and discomfort, which may tend you to forego the handling of the properties of the deceased just to cope with such loss. In situations like these, services of qualified lawyers are readily available at Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

To avoid ordeals of dealing with the assets left behind by a family member, you can contact Stephen Bilkis and Associates for advice and a free consultation.

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