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Court Decides Jurisdiction Issue with Will


The Surrogate’s Court of New York admitted a will into probate and issued letters testamentary and letters of trusteeship. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the admission of the will into probate and revoked the letters testamentary and letter of trusteeship.

The testator was a resident of the state of Vermont. He however had three bank accounts at a bank in New York. The amounts deposited in the three bank accounts comprise 23 % of the total value of his estate. Three executors were named in the will: one was a resident of Vermont, the other a resident of Florida and the last was a resident of New York. The nominated executor in New York was the one who initiated the probate proceedings in New York.

A New York Probate Lawyer said that it appears that the other executor who was a resident of Vermont had also filed probate proceedings in the Probate Courts of Vermont for the probate of the same will. The Probate Court of Vermont has already taken jurisdiction over the estate of the deceased who was a resident of Vermont because most of the properties of his estate are found in Vermont, with the exception of the three New York Bank accounts. Although, it was also proved that Vermont has not yet admitted the will into probate.

The only question before the Supreme Court is whether or not the New York Surrogate’s Court properly exercised jurisdiction over the estate and will of the testator.

The Court stated that the New York Surrogate’s Court cannot take jurisdiction over the will of a testator who is not a resident of New York unless the testator has properties in New York.

Manhattan Probate Lawyers said that the only properties of the estate, according to the wife of the testator are three bank accounts at a bank in New York. She contends that the testator created a trust account for her consisting of bank accounts in New York.

The Court ruled that since the bank accounts are trusts for the benefit of the wife (one of the designated executors, and the executor living in New York), they did not belong to the testator and the bank accounts do not belong to his estate. Queens Probate Lawyers said that according to the wife, the testator created the trust for her benefit and the trusts are deposit accounts at a New York bank. The Court ruled that trusts belong to the beneficiary (the wife of the testator) the person for whose benefit the trust was created.

Thus, since the only property of the estate in New York is a trust and the trust is for the benefit of the wife, the trust belongs to the wife and not to the testator. There is then no other property in New York and the Surrogate’s Court of New York has no reason for taking jurisdiction over the estate of the testator whose properties may be found in Vermont.

The Court also reasoned that determining whether the Surrogate’s Court of New York should exercise jurisdiction over the will must take into consideration not only the location of the estate’s properties but also the expense involved in proving the will when it is going to be probated outside of the residence of the testator and the good faith of the wife who is proposing the probate of the will in New York.

If the Court considers the trust as a property of the estate and not yet the property of the wife, still, the trust is an intangible personal property and intangible personal properties are considered as properties that are located in the same place where the testator is domiciled until ownership has been vested in another. In this case, the testator was a resident of Vermont so that the trusts are considered as located in Vermont.

The question of where to file a petition for the probate of a will is a complex legal matter that only experienced lawyers can answer for you. Trusting your limited knowledge of the law may cause the will to be denied probate. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, our legal team is trained to advice you regarding the best place to apply for probate of a will.

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