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Protecting Beneficiary Rights

New York City Lawyer Handling Trust and Will Litigation

Protecting beneficiary rights honors the intentions of the deceased. When a person bequeaths property to a beneficiary, the executor or trustee has a duty to adhere to the terms of the will or trust. When an executor or trustee violates its duties, the beneficiaries have certain rights under New York law to bring a legal action to protect their rights and seek any of the property bequeathed to them. Furthermore, beneficiaries may remove an administrator or trustee that fails to honor their rights. Beneficiaries seeking to protect their rights should contact Jules Haas, a New York City estate litigation attorney, for a consultation.

What are a Beneficiary’s Rights?

Beneficiaries have many rights in connection with a decedent’s estate or trust. Among other things, beneficiaries have the right to promptly receive their share of the estate, as provided in the will. Beneficiaries of wills also have other related rights. They have the right to be truthfully informed about what is happening with an estate and can force an executor to provide them with an accounting of the estate. Within seven months after an executor has been appointed, beneficiaries are entitled to receive a complete inventory of the estate. A beneficiary has the right to an executor who isn’t using the estate for personal gain. Otherwise, a beneficiary is entitled to remove that executor.

Trusts are legal arrangements in which a settlor appoints a trustee to hold and manage assets on behalf of one or more beneficiaries. Trusts can be testamentary or living, with the former only taking effect upon the death of the settlor. Generally, beneficiaries of revocable living trusts don’t have significant rights because the settlor is entitled to modify the terms or remove a particular beneficiary at any point. The beneficiary is entitled to communicate with the trustee and stay informed about trust business. In some cases, a beneficiary may be entitled to distributions. Beneficiaries of irrevocable living trusts or testamentary trusts have much greater rights. They are entitled to be kept informed about trust business; to obtain an accounting that shows profits, losses and distributions; to receive timely distributions according to the trust terms; and to receive communications from the trustee.

Protecting Beneficiary Rights

Executors, administrators, and trustees need to be cognizant that an estate isn’t their personal property. Their role is to locate and account for all assets and promptly distribute them according to the terms of the trust or will.

When a beneficiary suspects the executor, administrator or trustee has violated his rights, he can bring legal action. The beneficiary can petition the court to compel an executor to perform the duties specified in the will or trust. The beneficiary may also seek the removal of an executor and the appointment of a successor. As a beneficiary, if you’re not sure about whether an executor or trustee is handling the estate or trust properly, it may be appropriate to petition for a compulsory accounting. Under some circumstances, a beneficiary may sue an executor or trustee for breach of fiduciary duty.

Beneficiaries may have a limited window of time within which to assert rights, which makes it important to consult a lawyer right away. For example, if probate has been completed and a beneficiary believes the estate executor is denying him his inheritance, he should take legal action during the estate settlement process. Issues that may be addressed in the course of the settlement process include breach of fiduciary duty, spousal right of election, or fraudulent transfers.

Removal of a Trustee

Trustees owe a fiduciary duty to beneficiaries, which means they are obliged to act in the beneficiaries’ best interests and fulfill the trust terms. Under New York law, it may be possible to remove a trustee by bringing removal proceedings in Surrogate’s Court under certain circumstances. These reasons include: the trustee’s failure to account, the trustee’s unfitness, the trustee becomes ineligible by statute, the trustee becomes unqualified because of substance abuse or other factors, the trustee disobeys the court, the trustee removes property for personal use, or the trustee was chosen due to a false statement of material fact. Generally, a trustee will only be removed in extreme circumstances.

Consult a Seasoned Attorney in New York City

If you are worried about the issues that arise in protecting beneficiary rights, you should contact Jules Haas for a free case review. As a lawyer, Mr. Haas has handled New York City estate litigation for more than three decades and offers reasonable fee arrangements. He represents people in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Kings, Nassau, Richmond, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. Call us at (212) 355-2575 or contact us through our online form.

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