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Disputes Between Beneficiaries

New York City Attorney for Estate Litigation

A decedent’s estate or trust must be managed and distributed after his or her death. A fiduciary is responsible for carrying out these activities appropriately and in accordance with the law.

While retaining an experienced lawyer to draft the instrument controlling the distribution of property may minimize the likelihood of a will or trust dispute, heirs or beneficiaries may react unpredictably in their grief to the death of a beloved family member or friend. When disputes between beneficiaries occur, you should talk to knowledgeable New York City estate litigation attorney Jules Haas.

Disputes Between Beneficiaries

Disputes that may arise between beneficiaries may involve will contests, trust contests, spousal inheritance rights, creditors’ claims, accountings, breach of fiduciary duty, or performance of a fiduciary. Sometimes, beneficiaries are able to resolve these matters informally. However, if they are not able to reach an agreement, it may be appropriate to pursue estate litigation. Manhattan estate lawyers can help with these cases.

Will and Trust Contests

To contest the validity of a will or trust, a challenger must have legal standing. People with legal standing include family members who receive an inheritance or would inherit more under New York law if the will or trust were not valid, as well as disinherited or disadvantaged beneficiaries. For example, you may contest the later will of a decedent if it reduced your inheritance and you believe that the change was prompted by a beneficiary who exerted undue influence on the decedent. Beneficiaries may also contest a will and trust on the grounds of fraud, incapacitation, improper execution or revocation. Brooklyn estates can involve these issues.

Spousal Inheritance Rights

New York law prohibits the disinheriting of a spouse to whom the decedent was lawfully married at the time of death. Disinheriting occurs when persons intentionally omit their spouse from a will or trust. If a decedent’s surviving spouse is left out of a will or trust, he or she can assert the right to an elective share of the decedent’s assets. Generally, a surviving spouse is entitled to the greater of 1/3 of an estate or $50,000. Many Queens estates have right of election claims. After a personal representative is appointed to manage the decedent’s estate, the surviving spouse has six months to file a claim with the New York Surrogate’s Court.

Fiduciary Duties to Beneficiaries

Fiduciaries act for another’s benefit and must conduct themselves in a loyal, prudent and trustworthy way for the beneficiaries. Fiduciaries should avoid making investments or other decisions that would result in the beneficiaries sustaining financial loss. Beneficiaries may bring a lawsuit if they believe that a trustee has breached his or her fiduciary duties or is engaging in self-dealing, negligently managing estate or trust assets, or committing intentional acts of fraud. Other breaches of fiduciary duty include removing property from an estate, failing to provide necessary information to a beneficiary, acting against a beneficiary’s interests, or failing to properly carry out the terms of a will or trust.

Fiduciary Performance

In some cases, one beneficiary may wish to remove a fiduciary, while the others would prefer to keep the fiduciary in place. The Surrogate’s Court gives deference to a testator’s selection of an executor or trustee. Generally, removal will only be granted if a beneficiary can show that an estate and its administration would be endangered without removal.

Removal may be appropriate if the fiduciary has committed financial mismanagement, failed to abide by court orders, performed actions without necessary court approval, or engaged in conflicts of interest or self-dealing. Disputes between beneficiaries may arise when a trustee imprudently invests in one of the beneficiaries’ companies in a way that engenders losses for the other beneficiaries. The aggrieved beneficiary may seek removal. A Bronx attorney can assist with these matters.

Consult a Seasoned New York City Lawyer

If you find yourself in a dispute between beneficiaries, you should talk to seasoned New York City attorney Jules Haas, who has represented clients in estate litigation cases for more than 30 years. His clients have matters in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Kings, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. Contact him at (212) 355-2575 or through our online form. Mr. Haas provides a free case review and offers reasonable fee arrangements.

Client Reviews
I am very grateful to Mr. Jules Martin Haas attorney of law in New York. I am from Buenos Aires Argentina. He managed with expertise a very difficult situation. of a complicate heritage from my aunt Anna Grodzka that lived and died a very long time ago in New York. I recommend him not only for his extraordinary knowledge but also for his kindness. Irma CW Peusner
I found Mr. Haas after being misguided by a former attorney. Mr. Jules Haas took our case which involved an estate/trust dispute. What initially seemed like an impossible and overwhelming legal fight was now in the hands of someone who had the integrity and legal expertise to win our case. Mr Haas' attention to detail and his expert knowledge base, skillfully and successfully guided us through an intricate legal process. I am very thankful and grateful to Mr. Jules Haas for representing our interest and ultimately winning. Bringing about a peace of mind we needed. Thank You Devida Nedd
I was in need of a guardianship attorney and I hired the services of Jules M. Haas' Law firm. The service of counselor Haas and his staff, was very profesional and the case was handled in a timely matter. I would strongly recommend his services Angel Guevara
I strongly recommend Jules Haas. I have worked with him for two years and he has provided so much support and followed through with everything he promised he would do. His support staff is just as helpful! We had an interesting case and he helped to solve each part of it legally and was very thorough. Thank you for everything you have done to finalize our families estate Robyn Stafford
Jules Haas helped me with managing the process in probate court for my father's estate through to its completion upon the sale of my father's house. He was knowledgeable, efficient, and effective in submitting documentation to the probate court, explaining procedures to me, and advising me as to the progress of my case. His support staff was also very helpful. He made what for me created so much anxiety into something manageable where I could see progress every step of the way. His fees were very reasonable. I am super grateful to him for all the help he has provided and strongly recommend his services. Diana Janer
I just completed an estate transaction where Jules Haas represented my client in an estate and he did a great job! He was very quick at responding to all matters throughout the sale process, he was detailed, he was knowledgeable and he was a pleasure to work with. I just recommended him to some new clients who are going through an estate matter and will continue to recommend him. Rodolfo Lucchese