NY State Law regarding inheritance.

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Latest post 11-01-2006 8:44 PM by Angie, Community Moderator (Admin). 27 replies.
  • 10-31-2006 2:41 AM

    Question [=?] NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    My sister-in-law passed away more than 18 months ago. My niece was named the executrix of the estate. My husband and children were named as beneficiaries of part of the estate. The will was not contested and it has all ready been probated and all taxes have been paid and there were no debts. The attorney handling the estate claims that he is just waiting for the IRS to get back to him (I don't know what for). Is there some sort of time limit that NY State law has regarding how long it should take for the inheritance to be distributed once all compliances have been met? Someone told me that there was a law that 18 months was the time limit. Should my family consult a lawyer to find out what is going on? They only received one letter from the attorney soon after her death, advising them that they were named in the will. Only my husband had to sign a letter stating that he was not contesting the will. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • 10-31-2006 8:36 AM In reply to

    re: NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    I am a NY lawyer. There is no time limit for distribution. You can make a motion to compel a distribution if the executor refuses and the estate is closed. It is possible that your husband and kids were named in the will and the decedent had no money to distribute? The lawyer maybe waiting for a "closing letter" from the IRS before advising his/her client to make distributions. Depending on how much money is involved, you may want to consult a lawyer. The estate lawyer does not represent you.

    Sharon M. Siegel, Esq.

    Siegel & Siegel, P.C.

    Phone: 212-721-5300

    email: sieglaw@optonline.net

    website: www.siegelandsiegel.com

  • 10-31-2006 9:12 AM In reply to

    • Drew
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    re: NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    True, a closing letter from the IRS may be a safety step the estate is awaiting. 18 most may not be long at all.

    Ask executor where things stand, not attorney, --executor is in charge and may be willing to share information but is not required to do so--attorney works for executor , not you.

    For estate north of say $1 million it makes sense.

    If for any reason hubby suspects executor is not playing with a level deck, then by all means read any future signature requests most carefully and do NOT waive or sigh off on any rights. In NY he would be entitled to demand a full formal accounting--but this adds to delay and costs--so it only makes sense if you have smell of something amiss?



  • 10-31-2006 10:01 AM In reply to

    Question [=?] re: NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    Thank you so much. As far as the amount is concerned, there is quite a bit I know. There were a lot of investments and cash as my sister-in-law had no children and her husband ran his own business for years before he retired. My husband is reluctant to start any family problems so he refuses to ask my niece what is going on. One of my daughters is quite close to her and that is where I am getting some information. My other daughter wants to purchase a house and she really would like to know how much money she is going to receive. Unfortunately, we have no idea since the money is to be split five ways and we don't have any idea exactly how much it is going to be. I was able to ask my niece yesterday to call the attorney and she said she would today. Do you think she knows how much it's going to be? Because if she does, she's not tellling. I told her that her cousin (my daughter) wantd to know how much she would be able to put down since she found a house she's interested in, but she did not give me any estimate. She's not really the brightest crayon in the box, and I don't think she really knows what the attorney is talking about.
  • 10-31-2006 10:21 AM In reply to

    Question [=?] re: NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    Thank you, this and the other reply I received explains what the attorney is waiting for. My neice is not the brightest (even though she's over 40) and she never explained the closing letter. She only said the attorney was waiting for the IRS. We had no idea what that meant since we did know all the taxes had been paid. I do know this attorney is getting a flat fee of over $25,000 and, we also know there is quite a bit of money involved but it is to be split five ways. As I said in my reply to Sharon, my husband is reluctant to inquire because he doesn't want to start any family problems.

    I just wanted to make sure that there was no time line and that it wasn't unusual for all of this to take this long. Since there was never any reading of the will we really have know idea exactly where the money is coming from. We were only told that the real estate and contents of the home was going to my neice and nephew and the rest of the estate is to be split five ways. Considering how much money has all ready been spent by my neice and nephew (new cars, new home improvements, and new home) and that's without the real estate even being sold, I suspect there was a lot of money, bonds, etc., laying around the house because there is no way these purchases could have been made without it. This is the problem I have with all of this. You can't buy a new Corvette, new kitchen and other major home improvements on a alarm installers salary. Way more than $50,000 all ready spent by them. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law did quite well since he had has own business for years and they had no children.

    Can my husband ask for an accounting after the distribution? I don't think he wants to hold this up and ask for it before.
  • 10-31-2006 11:10 AM In reply to

    Feedback [*=*] re: NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    At this point in the case, the exectress should have filed an inventory of assets, liabilities with the probate court.

    If your husband is reluctant to "rock the boat", he can go down to the probate court and look at the probate case file himself. It is a public record.
  • 10-31-2006 11:16 AM In reply to

    Question [=?] re: NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    Thank you. I think that's exactly what we're going to do. Do you have to be a beneficiary to see these records, or can anyone do it?
  • 10-31-2006 12:17 PM In reply to

    • Drew
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    re: NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    Records are open to anybody to go read--but the file is likley to be skimpy on details especiallyas to inventory etc until the end--at which point it may be too late.

    It makes little sense for the executor to have dolled out /allowed out major chunks to some heirs while awaiting a closing letter from the IRS before the rest goes out. Something smells a bit here?

    WRONG as to leverage. Hubby as an hier has a clear legal right to ask for a formal accounting in NY before the end of the road signs , but once that point has been passed his practical rights for an accounting go to zero! If executor is a bit of a dull light, Hubby needs to be clear to insit upon a formal accounting well inside the proper time frames.



  • 10-31-2006 12:46 PM In reply to

    re: NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    Oh, perhaps I didn't explain enough. I don't think any of the money found or obtained by my niece or her brother (the two named as beneficiaries of the house and its contents) went into the "estate" as far as the attorney knows. They are the only other heirs and they both got the house and it's contents. My sister-in-law was known for keeping large amounts of cash, as well as having bonds (the kind that has no bearer on them). There is no other explanation for them having the kind of money they have been spending. There may have been bank accounts in there names also, as well as regular savings bonds. I know my sister-in-law left a checking account with enough money to pay the expenses on the house for two years. Apparently, that money is all gone because the house took so long to sell. It's now under contract but apparently that is a separate matter from the rest of the estate and has no effect on the other five heirs who are not getting the house.
    There was also a large amount of expensive jewelry that I was told went to my husband's other sister who is still living. Remember, this niece is not the daughter of my deceased sister-in-law, she is the daughter of her sister. I don't think we'll ever know for sure how much it was .

    I know this stinks to high heaven, but I don't think there's anything we can do about it. You think they would have had the common sense to wait until this was completed before spending any money they found. Like I said, not too smart.

    Thank you for telling me about the accounting situation. I will pass it on to my husband. This could be a potential lightening rod. I'm afraid if he asks for it now, they will probably throw a hissy fit. You see, they're not too happy with my husband since he stopped a potential takeover of his Mom's house by the same nephew who's getting most of this estate along with his sister. His Mom owns a two family house on LI and my nephew moved in over a year ago (in a basement apartment) with every intention of purchasing the house from her for the ridiculous sum of $300,000. Well, the you know what hit the fan when my husband found out but, at least he was able to talk his Mom out of that. Now, my Nephew has purchased another house (one family for $500,000) and is moving out. You know, the more I write about this crap, the angrier I get.
  • 10-31-2006 12:57 PM In reply to

    • Drew
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    re: NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    The executor has a duty to account for all the estate assets.

    While to may be difficult to trace cash, the use of the old paper bearer bonds while not easy is not insurmountable to trace.

    If the back accounts were joint then they mayhave passed directly to others outside of probate. Bt if the bank accounts were in the estate then there should be a proper accounting. And the other heirs may have a stake in hte money that was spent elsewhere.

    Who was living in the house while it was up for sale--the executor ws not supposed to be giving somebody a free ride.....

    There better be an estimate of the jewlery value in there and a decent inventory----


    Given all the loose ends you describe it seems that a demand for a formal accounting is very much a desired step.



  • 10-31-2006 1:50 PM In reply to

    Ok [+0+] Eeesh.

    "... but I don't think there's anything we can do about it."

    Whatever gave you that idea???

    If the niece and her brother were left house and contents *and nothing else* (bank accounts, stock, etc.), then I'm not sure where they are getting all the money you describe (unless they sold the house's contents for plenty). If your SIL didn't have a lot of debt, then the house and contents should have/could have gone to the niece long ago and there would be *no reason* why SIL's funds would be needed to maintain the property for two years.

    If SIL was well known to keep cash and bearer bonds at house and those aren't mentioned on the inventory, doesn't take a rocket scientist to know where they went. Forensic accountant could help connect dots in terms of what niece-brother were spending when they had no other source of income.

    Your husband and any other named heirs need to start rocking the boat here.

    "I'm afraid if he asks for it now, they will probably throw a hissy fit."

    So what??? If they've stolen money from the estate (in effect your husband and children), sheesh.

    Your husband has already waited (too) long on this; I'd pester him (or one of your kids) to get moving on this.

    Talk with a local estate-probate attorney.
  • 10-31-2006 2:08 PM In reply to

    Question [=?] re: NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    Well, I do know the checking account was joint with my niece because she had to pay the taxes and the upkeep of the house. Other than that, I don't really know. No one has lived in the house, so that's not an issue. Since she had such a hard time selling the house, she did some work there too. Had the carpeting removed and the wood floors done, wall paper removed along with some painting done. The house was built in the late seventies and was still kind of retro since my sister-in-law liked her decor and refused to change.

    As far as an inventory of the jewelry, I don't think that was ever done. We just assumed that since my neice and nephew were the sole heirs of the contents of the house, it was theirs to dispose of as they saw fit. Besides, the attorney would have no way of knowing what jewelry was there and we also don't know every piece of jewelry that she owned. I only know the pieces I've seen over the years, including a diamond necklass and numerous diamond rings. There was a couple of tag sales and garage sales that they had, but again I just assumed that this was all part of the contents and they just split the proceeds between them. I do know that the only things that were not part of the house and contents were the cars which were old and didn't amount to much money. You see, the only other heirs involved in this are my husbands living sister (the Mom of my niece and nephew) and my husbands Mother who is over 90. They're certainly not going to make any waves or ask for an accounting.

    You're right though, I too think a formal accounting is called for. Now, I just have to figure out how to do it without causing a big family rift. I think I may have a way since I'm not dealing with the brightest here. My husband also has his own business and an attorney and accountant on retainer. Perhaps he should let them be the ones to call the estate attorney and get the accounting. I will run this by him and see what he thinks. What do you think? Sound good? He could always say he needs it for business purposes -- what the heck do they know.
  • 10-31-2006 2:35 PM In reply to

    re: Eeesh.

    Ugh!!! Read my last response to fill you in. In any case, I know you are right. I know the contents that were sold certainly did not amount to the money that has been spent. Most of the furniture is still there. My SIL was only 66 and really did not want to face the fact that she was dying. She had lost her husband five years earlier and things went down hill soon after that for her. I know there was no way she was going to give the house to my niece before her death. I do know that she left $20,000 for the upkeep of the house in a joint checking with my niece. It was supposed to last two years but, the taxes on the house were over $12,000 a year so it was not enough. If there were savings bonds with my niece's name on them in the home, I do not know. I only know that she has spent over $50,000 between the car and the home improvements she did on her house since my SIL's death. Before that, she was pinching pennies. She doesn't work and has two children.

    Tomorrow I am going to the Surrogate Court to see what I can find out. Without a copy of the Will, I can't be sure what was left to them. I only know the five heirs (my Husband, three children, one sister and my MIL)were left 10% of the residual estate, and my niece and nephew get 20% each and another 10% to the executrix. That is what the letter says that we received from the attorney a year and a half ago. Of course, none of that has been distributed yet.

    You know, if it wasn't that my MIL was still alive, I do think my husband would have been rocking the boat sooner. This whole thing gets him very aggrevated and I know you are right, but I'm going to have to try and convince him to take some action. I hesitate to get too involved, because I'm the out-law here and it's the only family he has left. My SIL made a big mistake here leaving the kids in charge and I know she thought she had time to make changes because my MIL told me she was going to. Unfotunately, she thought she had more time than she did. Of course, there's only one other person who I know would really rock the boat, that's my middle child, she'd have no problem doing it I'm sure. Only her Dad could stop her, but I don't think he would.
  • 10-31-2006 4:53 PM In reply to

    re: Eeesh.

    "I do know that she left $20,000 for the upkeep of the house in a joint checking with my niece."

    Ooops. Bad idea. Legally, niece could take-spend all on herself if account was joint. You may want to look into whether $$$ taken from accounts set up joint for convenience purposes only (or for post-death convenience) is something you can go after in the probate proceeding. Otherwise, niece is-was free to take and blow that $20k without using any of it for estate expenses.

  • 10-31-2006 4:55 PM In reply to

    re: NY State Law regarding inheritance.

    I don't know that I'd define "house contents" as including jewelry. Probably a state-defined thing. Otherwise, there was no mention of "personal property" (cars, jewelry, clothing, etc.)?
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